The scandalous destiny of Goya's "Naked Maja"

Lying on a sofa covered with a white sheet and soft cushions, the pretty brunette with sensual curves offers herself to the gaze like a pearl in her mother-of-pearl case. Her bare skin diffuses a soft light like a moonbeam on a dark background. Not even a piece of jewelry distracts the eye from her milky flesh. Rosy cheeks (has she just given herself up to pleasure already?) and her arms raised behind her head to show off her breasts, she peacefully stares at the viewer with a slight smile, floating in comfortable assurance. The one to charm for sure. A secret device When the Spanish Inquisition refused even mythological nudes, the daring Goya (1746–1828) showed a few pubic hairs in the hollow of his closed thighs. To add to the nerve of this nude, the young woman is represented almost life-size on this 1.90 meter long canvas! About 70 years before L'Origine du monde by Courbet (1866), this is perhaps the first time that the intimate hairiness of a "real" woman (and not a nymph or a goddess) is represented. But the work was not meant to be seen by everyone. Painted between 1790 and 1800, it was part of the secret cabinet of the powerful courtier Manuel Godoy (head of the Spanish government appointed by King Charles IV) where it was concealed, thanks to an ingenious sliding mechanism, behind a dressed replica! Twin sister of the Maja desnuda , the Maja vestida is reclining in the same pose and her clothes – a bolero and a white dress tucked between her legs – only cover her skin without hiding her forms. As if they had been painted over the nude to hide only the “unacceptable” details, making the second canvas even more erotic, the revelation of which resembles a naughty stripping! The Inquisition files a lawsuit against Goya for obscenity… For a long time, experts leaned towards the thirteenth Duchess of Alba, María Cayetana de Silva (1762–1802), mistress of Goya and whose paintings Godoy had inherited in 1802. Nicknamed "The Gypsy", then "Maja" (a beautiful woman of the Spanish working class), the seductress has still not been identified. Renowned for her physique, the lady had brown curls, very white skin, and languid eyelids worthy of Maja. The painter had depicted her on several occasions, notably leaving a portrait of her in a white dress (1795), and another in mourning (1797), just after the death of her husband. On the ground, the now unrivaled lover slips the inscription “solo Goya”: “only Goya”! Maja could only be an ideal woman, inspired by several beauties... In March 1808, the people of Madrid revolted, and Secretary of State Manuel Godoy narrowly escaped a public lynching. Overthrown, King Charles IV gave way to his son Ferdinand VII… who got his hands on Godoy's property and discovered the naked Maja, which he immediately confiscated! The Inquisition, a Church tribunal born in the 13th century in France to repress heresy, had fallen into disuse before being reborn in Spain in 1478, establishing a lasting terror through burnings, tortures and condemnations to died (possibly around 2000) during the 16th century and the end of the 15th century. From 1808 to 1813, Spain was occupied by Napoleon's army, and this terrible ecclesiastical tribunal was abolished, but restored almost immediately, in 1814, upon the return to power of Ferdinand VII. Wishing to set an example to "subdue" the insubordination that has been blowing in Europe since the French Revolution, the Inquisition brought a lawsuit against Goya for obscenity. In theory (even if this outcome has become rather rare), the painter risks ending up burned alive... Thanks to the support of powerful Cardinal Luis María de Borbón y Vallabriga, the painter is miraculously acquitted. The Inquisition will not be banned by law until 1838, ten years after his death. But the two paintings will remain hidden in a closed room of the Royal Academy of San Fernando until 1901, the year of their entry into the Prado Museum, 73 years after the artist's death! From now on, the naked Maja is the pride of the country. On June 15, 1930, the Spanish post office issued a series of stamps bearing her image – the first in history depicting a naked woman. Distraught, the government of the United States, where prohibition is still in force, returns to the sender all the letters bearing the burning sticker. The beautiful stranger will have made more than one blush! Seen in Beaux Arts - Josephine Binde.

The scandalous destiny of Goya's "Naked Maja"

Lying on a sofa covered with a white sheet and soft cushions, the pretty brunette with sensual curves offers herself to the gaze like a...