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Artwork Review: The Naked Maja by Goya
Posted by Graphica on 12/21/2008 2:54:32 PM (ET)
Filed Under: General
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The identity of the woman who posed for this painting and its companion piece, The Clothed Maja, remains a mystery until today. Romantic gossip claims she was the Duchess of Alba, her features disguised to prevent recognition. Perhaps she was one of the mistresses of Manuel Godoy, Charles IV’s prime minister, to whom the paintings belonged—and who would have been powerful enough to defy the Inquisition's ban on female nudes. When Godoy fell from power, Goya was questioned by the authorities but refused to divulge any information about the Majas.

The Naked Maja - Goya

THE NAKED MAJA (c. 1800-05)
Oil on Canvas

Fluid paint, thinly applied and blended, gives the effect of pearly flesh, the subtlety of its tone enhanced by the contrast between the warm background and the coolness of the lace and satin bedding. Soft light illumines the figure evenly, modelling without strong contrasts of light and shadow its firm volumes and idealized perfection. The pose, which goes back to an ancient prototype, the reclining Maenad, was undoubtedly known to Goya from Titian's interpretation in his Bacchanal, one of the paintings in the royal collection in Madrid. Together with Velázquez's Rokeby Venus, and a very few others, this is one of the rare nudes in Spanish painting.

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