Clothed Maja

Francisco Goya
Keywords: ClothedMaja

Work Overview

The Clothed Maja
Spanish: La maja vestida
Artist Francisco Goya
Year 1800–1805
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 97 cm × 190 cm (38 in × 75 in)
Style   Romanticism
Genre   portrait
Location Museo del Prado, Madrid

The Clothed Maja (Spanish: La maja vestida [la ˈmaxa βesˈtiða]) is a pendant painting by the Spanish painter Francisco de Goya between 1800 and 1805. It is a clothed version of the earlier La maja desnuda (1797–1800) and is exhibited next to it in the same room at the Prado Museum in Madrid.[1]

The painting was first owned by Prime Minister Manuel de Godoy, who was known as an avid womanizer, and originally hung in his home in front of the Naked Maja in such a manner that the Naked Maja could be revealed at any time with the help of a pulley mechanism.

It was twice in the collection of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, also in Madrid, being "sequestered" by the Spanish Inquisition between 1814 and 1836, and has been in the Museo del Prado since 1901.

The word maja is the feminine form of majo, a low class Spaniard of the 18th and 19th century. The model is identifiable as a maja by her costume, but her identity is not known; it has been suggested that she looks like Godoy's mistress Pepita Tudó.

An unidentified lady wearing delicate transparent clothing and a yellow jacket with black decorations lies on a green velvet divan with cushions and a spread. There has been a great variety of opinions as to who the sitter is, but her anonymity is maintained in all of the inventories listing this work. Legend would have it that she was the Duchess of Alba, although she has also been identified as Pepita Tudó, Godoy´s mistress from 1797 on. This painting is first mentioned in 1808 along with its companion, The Nude Maja (P00742), in the inventory of the property of Manuel Godoy carried out by Frédéric Quillet, an agent of José Bonaparte. In 1813, the two Majas are described as Gypsies in the inventory of Godoy´s properties confiscated by King Fernando VII. The present work is more summarily painted than the nude work, which has more subtle transparencies and tonal gradations, as well as some differences in the position of the figure. This work entered the Prado Museum in 1901 by way of the Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, where it had been from 1808 to 1813, and again from 1836 to 1901. In the hiatus between those two periods, it was sequestered by the Inquisition.

Since the early nineteenth century the Maja vestida has been paired with the Maja vestida, the latter painted before 1800, when Pedro Gonzalez de Sepulveda mentions it after his visit to Prime Minister Manuel Godoy's palace. No mention is made of the Maja vestida, which led Elias Tormo to conclude, in 1902, that this canvas dates from a later period. Although the source of the commission is unknown, the work is thought to have been executed between 1800 and 1805, when the painter's professional ties to Godoy ended. The Maja vestida is first cited in an 1808 inventory, carried out after the Prince of Peace (Godoy) fell from grace and his assets were seized by Ferdinand VII. Under the French occupation, Joseph Bonaparte commanded his agent Frederic Quilliet to inventory all Godoy's holdings. Quilliet classified both majas in the third section of his inventory as works of secondary nature: his take on the subject agrees with Sepulveda's criticism of the Maja vestida: "ill drawn and clumsy in coloration." 

The moment the paintings came to light, scholars strove to confirm that the duchess of Alba was their model. French authors in particular—Louis Viardot and Charles Baudelaire, for instance—endorsed this tale, believing the image to be that of an aristocrat dressed as an Andalusian maja, then considered the perfect incarnation of Spain and the soul of majismo. But close observation reveals inaccuracies of dress that have little to do with any known Andalusian attire, even that of a maja. Like the Maja vestida, this clothed one reclines on a divan, her hands crossed behind her head, and looks out at the observer. Although she is called a maja, she is not wearing the characteristic attire of women of this plebeian class, whom Goya frequently drew or painted and of whose dress he possessed very precise knowledge. She displays neither the traditional basquina nor the usual hair arrangement: she wears neither hair netting nor mantilla. Her body is clothed in a white chemise, cinched at the waist by a broad sash. The little jacket she wears is not the characteristic jubon, the bodice seen on the maja in the foreground of The Meadow of San Isidro, but rather a different item of clothing loosely based on it. Her shoes have pointed toes, better suited to a lady than a maja; the majas preferred square-toed shoes with silver buckles. Given these discrepancies, it is worth noting that early commentators on the painting did not see in the model a maja at all, but rather a "Clothed Venus" or a "Gypsy": the painting is so listed in the 1813 inventory of Godoy's assets ordered by Ferdinand VII. In a recently published document from the General Register of Attachments of 22 November 1814, both majas are classed with "five obscene paintings," a classification that failed to prevent the exhibition of the Maja vestida (as it did the Maja vestida) in the halls of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, which had the canvases in its keeping from 1836 until 1901. 

The Maja vestida and the Maja vestida mark two technical extremes. The former is defined by exact and finished brushstrokes, and the painter indulged in a brilliantly executed tonal gradation, stressing the subtleties of the surfaces. The Maja vestida, by contrast, reveals abrupt brushstrokes that seem in constant motion. Here strong colors summarily describe the flashy jerkin and the green of the divan, in no way a literal copy of the earlier couch, in which Goya highlighted the velvet textures. Space in the Maja vestida is flat. The painter dispenses with the diffuse background lighting that clearly evokes surrounding areas in the Maja vestida. The delicious laces and fabrics have likewise been modified and simplified. 

Though it was no doubt painted earlier, the first record of The Clothed Maja and the first mention of the paintings together is in an inventory of Godoy's collection dated 1 January 1808, where they are called 'gipsies'. In an article on Los Caprichos published in Cadiz in 1811, it is as Goya's Venuses that they are mentioned amongst his most admired works (they are also called Venuses in Goya's biography by his son). The next mention of the Majas is towards the end of 1814, when Goya was denounced to the Inquisition for being the author of two obscene paintings in the sequestrated collection of the Chief Minister Godoy, 'one representing a naked woman on a bed...and the other a woman dressed as a maja on a bed'. On 16 May 1815, the artist was summoned to appear before a Tribunal 'to identify them and to declare if they are his works, for what reason he painted them, by whom they were commissioned and what were his intentions'. Unfortunately Goya's declaration has not yet come to light.

As a pair of paintings of a single figure in an identical pose, the Majas are a highly original invention. The theory that the clothed woman was intended as a cover for the naked one is very credible. It is not surprising that the Majas attracted the attention of the Inquisition in Madrid in 1814. As late as 1865 Manet's Olympia (which bears such a close resemblance to The Naked Maja that it is difficult to believe that the artist had not seen Goya's painting) created a furious scandal when it was exhibited in the Paris Salon.

Francisco Goya’s La Maja Vestida is an oil painting on canvas in Madrid’s Museo del Prado. The exact date Goya painted La Maja Vestida is unknown. It is generally assumed to have been painted between 1797 and 1800. Some experts believe it may have been painted in 1792.

La Maja Vestida is known in English as The Clothed Maja. The painting depicts a lying on a couch. The subject has her arms raised up, with her hands behind her head. She has a faint smile and rosy cheeks.

The focus of light in the painting highlights the subject and the couch. The painting’s background is done in dark colors and depicts just a plain wall.

Alternative Version
The artist painted a virtually identical work named La Maja Desnuda, which means The Naked Maja. As the name implies, in this version the subject is naked. This painting is also displayed in the Museo del Prado. The two La Maja paintings are normally displayed alongside each other.

His masterpieces in painting include the renown paintings "The Naked Maja" (La Maja Desnuda) and "The Clothed Maja" (La Maja Vestida), both painted between 1797-98. The Naked Maja was called "gypsies", matching the clothed Maja. It creates a new nudity form, later followed by other painters, specially in France. Speculations about models for this work have been very numerous: nowadays it's believed that he used several women, ones for the face and others for the body. Goya's use of light is really splendid, obtaining an intimate and tinged atmosphere

The Clothed Maja repeats the naked Maja's composition, both in structure and in the model's position. But changes are clear in colors and general atmosphere. Goya is believed to have used a different model, more stylized in this case.