Welcome to the brand new Arthive! Discover a full list of new features here.

The Clothed Maja

Francisco Goya • Painting, XIX century, 97×190 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Portrait
Style of art: Romanticism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: XIX century
Size: 97×190 cm
Artwork in collection: Smart and Beautiful Natalya Kandaurova
Artwork in selections: 35 selections
Exhibitions history
October 10, 2021 − January 23, 2022
The Museum Fondation Beyeler, Baselstrasse, 101

Description of the artwork «The Clothed Maja»

“He, Goya, portrayed in this undressed and dressed but still naked woman, all the women with whom he had ever slept in bed or in other place. He portrayed a body calling for all kinds of delights. And at the same time there are two faces: one full of expectation, frozen with lust, with a cruel, alluring, dangerous look; the other is a little sleepy, slowly awakening after quenched passion and already hungry for new pleasures.”
Lyon Feuchtwanger. Goya or the Hard Path of Knowledge

According to the legend, The Clothed Maja was painted later than The Naked Maja, in order to cover the frank analogue with a special mechanism. The painting was executed on canvas of the same size, and the young woman was depicted lying on the same bed, reclining on the same lace-trimmed white and dull green pillows. Her posture is almost literally quoting the pose of her nude twin, except that her knees are slightly less bent. She is wearing a strange outfit that has nothing to do with the original maja costumes — a white dress with a wide pink belt, outlining the body like a cambric nightgown, a short jacket embroidered with gold and black sequins, reminiscent of a torero costume, and incredibly tiny pointed gold shoes (which Goya presented to many women in his portraits).

Just as in the nude portrait, nothing distracts the viewer from the subject: the surrounding background shimmers with shades of Goya’s favourite silver-grey and silver-olive without a single bright spot or glare, all the light is concentrated on the bed and the woman, all the colour and details are only focused on the woman.
The model for Goya has long been considered María Cayetana de Silva, the 13th Duchess of Alba. This version appeared due to Lyon Feuchtwanger and his magnificent book Goya or the Hard Path of Knowledge — the alleged affair between the artist and the duchess was described with such passionate conviction there that biographers could only speculate about its real duration (because no one would believe the fact that there was no affair, anyway). Cayetana Alba, the great-granddaughter of Duke of Alba, the “executioner of the Netherlands”, was beautiful, headstrong, daring, unpredictable, and undoubtedly would stay undressed without much embarrassment in front of the artist (and, presumably, the lover). Moreover, her origin, name and the popularity she enjoyed in Spain allowed her to commit acts both on the verge of decency and on the verge of law without any particular fear.
The supporters of this hypothesis are not confused by the very vague similarity of the Maja face with the surviving portraits of Cayetana — after all, Goya is known for his ability to impart anonymity to features.

Josefa (Pepa) Tudó, the mistress and (probably) a secret wife of the all-powerful first minister of Spain, Manuel Godoy, the favourite of Queen Marie-Louise, is considered the second candidate for the role of “Maja”.

According to Feuchtwanger, both paintings were bought by Godoy from the heirs of the late Duchess of Alba, but according to the testimony of a certain Pedro González de Sepúlveda, Godoy showed him the clothed and naked Maja in 1800, while Cayetana was still alive, along with other paintings from his collection of the naked beauties (by the way, the Rokeby Venus by Velázquez was among them).
In 1808, both paintings were confiscated by the Inquisition, after which they ended up in the collection of the Academy of San Fernando, and in 1901 they were housed in the Prado.

It should be said that the current representatives of the Alba clan are not much happy to be the heirs of the one that, perhaps, lay on crumpled sheets in front of the deaf artist, and were ready to pass this role to Josefa Tudó or any other long-dead beauty from among the many mistresses of Godoy or Goya himself. In the end, in 1945, they decided to exhume the bones of Cayetana, intending to measure her and to prove the dissimilarity of their great-great-great-grandmother and the Naked Maja, but, alas, almost the only ratio clearly defined in the picture is the proportion of the length of the thigh and the lower leg, while these bones were broken when Napoleonic soldiers threw the duchess’s remains from her tomb.

Author: Oksana Sanzharova