Goya painted The Clothed Maja, also referred to as La maja vestida between 1800 and 1805. This painting is based upon his earlier painting, La maja desnuda that he painted during 1797 – 1800, in this painting Maja is nude.
Today both paintings sit side by side in the esteemed Prado Museum, located in Madrid, Spain. The Clothed Maja was originally owned by the Prime Minister of Spain, Manuel de Godoy, as well as by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando. Although the two versions of this painting do share similarities, two different models were used for each painting.
Although The Clothed Maja is a painting of a nude woman wearing clothes, it shares much in common with the nude paintings of its day. The composition, and colours are all reminiscent of the artistic style of the period.
However, what is different is that Goya painted Maja with a determined gaze, as she stares straight at the observer. This is most unique. The fact that the model is also wearing contemporary clothing is also unusual. This woman is not submissive, nor weak, but has been painted as a strong and opinionated woman who is proud of her body and wishes to be observed.
When we observe The Clothed Maja, we see a woman who dominates the canvas, taking up much of the space. She adopts the typical pose of the period, reclining backwards on a bed, her head resting on pillows, with her arms resting behind her head. What is different is that she is looking directly at the observer. Her outer garments have been removed or pushed aside in order to expose her body adorned in undergarments.
Her full bosom can be clearly seen, as is the definition of her waist. The Clothed Maja, really was a turning point for Goya, as it showcased his unique personality and interpretation of the world, that helped to inspire other established and budding artist. One of these artists was Jeffrey Meyers. Samuel Edwards, also wrote the novel, The Naked Maja in 1959, that resulted in the production of a film.
The Naked Maja was the first life sized painting of a nude woman in the Western world, and Goya clearly drew inspiration from his painting when he painted The Clothed Maja, painting her also as a life sized model. Why he decided to paint Maja clothed, we will never know. Perhaps it was due to the controversy of the original work depicting female pubic hair? It is well documented that during 1815, the Spanish Inquisition asked Goya who had requested the woman to be painted, to which Goya gave no answer.
There is much controversy surrounding who the actual Maja was and if she was known to Goya. Some believe her to be Pepita Tudó, a young mistress, while others believe her to be María del Pilar Teresa, Duchess of Alba, who it was rumoured Goya was having an affair with at the time. He had also previously painted her portrait.
Tom Gurney in an art history expert. He received a BSc (Hons) degree from Salford University, UK, and has also studied famous artists and art movements for over 20 years. Tom has also published a number of books related to art history and continues to contribute to a number of different art websites. You can read more on Tom Gurney here.