La maja desnuda (The Naked Maja or The Nude Maja) is an oil on canvas painting by the Spanish painter Francisco Goya (1746–1828), portraying a nude woman reclining on a bed of pillows. It was executed some time between 1797 and 1800.The painting has been in the Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1910.
The mysterious painting is the companion to another picture, La Maja vestida Maja Vestida (The Clothed Maja), also in the Prado, which portrays the same woman in the sane setting, but clothed.The woman has not yet been identified, and the hypothesis that she may have been the duchess of Alba stemming perhaps from the fact that she showed an interest in the canvas, is belied by the lack of resemblance to portraits of the noblewoman. The picture must have been painted by the year 1800, when the engraver Pedro Gonzalez de Sepulveda saw it in the collection of the minister Manuel de Godoy along with other "Venuses," although he judged it to lack good drawing and refinement of coloring. Godoy is the first known owner of the Maja vestida, which suggests that it was painted for him. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that in those years he had favored Goya over any other painter, and that if the request had not come to him from such a powerful man it is likely that the artist would never have risked tackling such an explicitly erotic theme, in open conflict with the cultural and religious ethos of the day. On March 16, 1815, even though the painting was not displayed in a public place, the Camara Secreta de la Inquisition de Madrid ordered that the painter be brought in for interrogation about the two paintings of Las Majas, to find out whether he admitted to being their author and for whom he had executed them. The reaction of the Inquisition, even after a lapse of fifteen years since the execution of the painting, should not surprise us: in the Spain of the time such a realistic nude was quite exceptional, and had a sole precedent in a mythological representation by Velazquez, Venus and Cupid (Venus at Her Mirror) (National Gallery, London). But the Maja desnuda caused far more scandal than the depiction of a figure from myth, as it was the first time a real woman, even if her identity was unknown, had been portrayed with such realism and sensuality. Goya's composition is extremely refined, and the model's opulent forms and penetrating gaze are enhanced by the light that is reflected from her perfect, nacreous flesh.
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