“The Nude Maja” is an oil painting on canvas by Francisco Goya. It measures 98 by 190 centimeters and was painted between 1797 and 1800. Goya personally experienced the fading splendors and ensuing crisis in Spain between the end of the 1700s and the beginning of the 1800s. Ge interpreted the gallant world of Madrid [Graphics: show “The Parasol”, 1778], portrayed court nobility [Graphics: show “The Family of Charles V,” 1800], and became emotionally involved in the events that followed the invasion of Spain by Napoleon and his French troops. [1808] [Graphics: show the etchings “The Disasters of War,” and especially “The Third of May 1808”] “The Nude Maja” is the portrait of a young woman lying on a bed of pillows, completely naked. Goya was commissioned to paint the work by the powerful Minister Manuel Godoy, [Graphics: show portrait “Manuel Godoy, Principe de la Paz”, by Goya, 1801] at the time the only person who could afford to flout the Inquisition’s ban on depicting female nudes.

Spanish art had previous examples of female nudes, such as Diego Velázquez’s “La Venere allo specchio.” [1651] [Graphics: show image] But in Veláquez’s painting, the woman represented a goddess and was portrayed from behind.The Nude Maja, on the other hand, was the first painting in Spanish art to show a real woman, naked and openly sensual. She is lying down and her arms are crossed behind her head. No gimmicks have been used to cover her breasts or pubis. The Maja’s bold, mischievous eyes are fixed on the spectator as if in challenge. The intense green of the bed stands out against the meticulously painted white lace covering the velvet. The slightly lighter background adds volume to the subject, giving it presence; the candor of the naked body is represented with short and accurate brushstrokes, displaying delicate shades of color. The painting was probably conceived together with The Clothed Maja, [1800-1805] a painting in which the same model is portrayed in an identical pose, but elegantly clothed. The canvas with the clothed girl was probably painted to hide the naked portrait, functioning as a cover only Godoy could lift.

The scandalous Nude Maja went against the climate of restoration imposed by Ferdinando VII. In 1815 Goya was summoned before the Inquisition to defend the painting. He managed to escape being sentenced, but his position at court was compromised. Therefore, he decided to retreat to his country home, called Quinta del sordo [Speaker: pron. “Chinta”]. The work was acquired by the Prado Musem in 1901 “The Nude Maja” is currently on display at the Prado Museum in Madrid.
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