I ended my last blog with the tantalising statement:
“…I will offer you a work by another famous Spanish artist, Francisco Goya, and tell you about the connection it has with myself, as a naughty schoolboy, and my first sighting of erotica !!!!…”
I suppose I will be accused of cynically employing cheap tactics in order to get people to read my blog but there is a connection between the two Goya paintings I am featuring in this blog with the dubious habits of a young school boy. My early school days were back in the late 50’s and the first sight of what I loosely termed as “early erotica” came in the form of a pen. It was not just any pen. It was a pen which had a picture of a beautiful and fully clothed young woman. However the titillating aspect about the pen was that if you turned the pen upside-down the clothed lady slowly shed all her clothes !!!
Today I am looking at, not one painting by Francisco Goya, but two, albeit as you will realise, they are almost the same except for one major exception. His two paintings are entitled La maja vestida (The Clothed Maja) and La maja desnuda (The Nude Maja) were painted around 1800 and 1803 and the only difference between the two is that in one the woman is fully clothed whilst in the other she is naked. I suppose the first question that comes to one’s mind is who is this lady and how come Goya painted her reclining portrait. The question has never really been answered but the names of two ladies are often bandied about by historians as being this sultry temptress. The two candidates are the 13th Duchess of Alba and Pepita Tudó.
The Duchess of Alba or to give her, her full title, Doña María del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva-Álvarez de Toledo y Silva, the 13th Duchess of Alba de Tormes was a Spanish aristocrat who featured in a number of Goya’s paintings. Francisco de Goya profited from wealthy patronage probably more than any other artist. He was without doubt the darling of the Spanish monarchy. His first appointment as court painter came from King Charles IV of Spain. The King and his wife, Queen Maria Luisa, sat for the artist themselves many times. For their portraits they would dress in the most colourful and showy costumes adorned with the royal regalia. Besides the royal portraits Goya received many lucrative commissions from other high-ranking government officials as well as requests for altarpieces for churches and cathedrals. However without doubt and notwithstanding his many prominent sitters, one stands out above all the others – the 13th Duchess of Alba.
The Duchess of Alba was not just any royal courtier. She was a very wealthy and powerful woman in her own right. She was a member of Spanish nobility and held the title of 13th Duchess of Alba. She married José María Alvarez de Toledo y Gonzaga, who was the 15th Duke of Medina-Sidonia, and she became the wealthiest woman in Spain. She was quite a character. Besides her natural beauty, she was the height of eccentricity, and very strong-willed. Goya was besotted by her and rumours had it that, at one time, the two were lovers. He recounted the time she came to his studio and asked him to apply her make-up:
“…the Alba woman, who yesterday came to the studio to make me paint her face, and she got her way; I certainly enjoy it more than painting on canvas, and I still have to do a full-length portrait of her…”
It has been suggested that the two paintings were originally owned by the Duchess of Alba and later acquired by Manuel de Godoy after her death. Goya’s close and intimate relationship with the Duchess of Alba has made her the most popular candidate as a model for the Majas, or at least as a source of inspiration. Another persuasive argument in favour of this candidate is the many drawings of herself and members of her household Goya made during his visits to the Duchess’s country estate. However the face of the Majas does not show a close resemblance to the facial qualities of the drawings of her but this could be put down to the need to conceal her identity.
The second candidate for the model in Goya’s two paintings was Pepita Tudó, whose full name was Josefa de Tudó, 1st Countess of Castillo Fiel. Pepita being the diminutive of Josefa. She was born in Cadiz. When she was just sixteen years of age, she along with her mother and two sisters, were living in the household of Manuel de Godoy. Five years later, aged twenty-one, she became the mistress of Godoy who was then Spanish Prime Minister and because of the influence he had with King Charles IV and his wife Queen Maria-Louisa he became one of the most powerful men in Spain. In 1797, Queen Maria Luisa arranged a marriage for Godoy toMaría Teresa de Borbón y Vallabriga, 15th Countess of Chinchón, the granddaughter of Philip V of Spain, despite him still having Pepita as his mistress. This was an arranged marriage, set up by the queen as the bride and groom had never met. The Queen ensured that the partnership was financially advantageous to both bride and groom. So what was in it for the Queen? Historians would have us believe that the queen’s ulterior motive was two-fold. Firstly she had hoped that the marriage was a way of ending Godoy’s dalliance with Pepita and secondly the marriage would act as a cover for her own relationship with Godoy. Godoy was pleased with the arrangement as it boosted his finances and despite what the queen had hoped for, he continued his liaison with his mistress Pepita, who bizarrely lived in the same house as his wife. In 1805, Godoy’s wife gave birth to a son, Manuel, and in 1807, she gave birth to another son, Luis. His wife died in 1828 and Godoy married Pepita although rumour had it that they had married years earlier. Godoy was a very amorous and amoral man and had many lovers but who was his one true love –the Duchess of Alba or Pepita? According to the ninety-year old Pepita who died in 1869, Godoy had one, and only one true love, and that was Queen Maria Luisa.
The paintings I am featuring today were possibly first owned by Manuel de Godoy. The Clothed Maja was hung in a room in his house and placed on top of The Naked Maja. He had arranged a pulley mechanism to be attached to The Clothed Maja so that it could be raised, revealing the naked version which was behind it !!!
In 1807 Godoy was at the height of his power and as prime minister had negotiated the Treaty of Fontainebleau with Napoleon and the French, which in essence carved up Portugal and Godoy was awarded the “Principality of the Algarves”, under the protectorate of the King of Spain. However as is the case of most powerful men he had made a number of enemies, one of whom was the heir to the Spanish throne, Ferdinand VII. Unfortunately for Godoy France did not keep to their non-aggression treaty with Spain and Godoy, along with King Charles IV and Queen Maria Louisa went into exile in Bayonne. Charles IV was forced to abdicate and Ferdinand VII, Godoy’s enemy, became king of Spain.
The following year, in 1808, all Godoy’s fate was sealed. His property was seized by the Spanish monarch and in 1813 the Spanish Inquisition confiscated both of the La Maja works considering them to be obscene. In 1815 Goya was denounced to the Inquisition as being the artist who painted the two “obscene” works. In May of that year he was summoned to appear before the Inquisition and pressure was brought to bear on him to reveal who had commissioned the works, who were the women and what were his intentions for such paintings. Alas, it is not known what Goya told his inquisitors.
The two paintings were eventually returned in 1836 and housed in the Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando. We will probably never be one hundred per cent sure as to who modelled for the two paintings. Since 1901, both The Clothed Maja and The Nude Maja have been exhibited side by side in the same room at the Prado Museum in Madrid.
Thankfully there was no Inquisition around when, as a pre-teenager, I giggled as I watched the woman’s clothes disappear with just a flick of my prized pen !!!!
I send this blog from a very hot Spain and I am reluctant to return to the cold and wet place I call my home.