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Art / The Nude Maja

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The Nude Maja (Spanish: La Maja Desnuda) is a name given to a c. 1797–1800 oil on canvas painting by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya. It portrays a nude woman reclining on a bed of pillows, and was probably commissioned by Manuel de Godoy, to hang in his private collection in a separate cabinet reserved for nude paintings. Goya created a pendant of the same woman identically posed, but clothed, known today as La maja vestida (The Clothed Maja); also in the Prado, it is usually hung next to La maja desnuda. The subject is identified as a maja based on her costume in La maja vestida.

It has been in the Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1901 where it remains. The painting itself has a twin called The Clothed Maja, a companion of the same woman in the same position and the same couch, but the model is fully clothed.

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The Nude Maja provides examples of:

  • Hairy Girl: The painting is cited as one of the earliest depictions of pubic hair in Western nudes without any sort of symbolic connotations to it (since the such things are commonly associated with sex-workers).
  • It's Not Porn, It's Art: Much of its controversy stems from how sexualized it was. She is a nude human woman without the pretense of mythology who stares right at the viewer, the presence of pubic hair commonly associated with prostitutes.
  • The Muse: It has been conjectured that the woman depicted was Godoy's young mistress Pepita Tudó. It has also been suggested that the woman was María del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva y Álvarez de Toledo, 13th Duchess of Alba, with whom Goya is rumored to have been romantically involved and whose portrait he painted twice (in 1795 and 1797). However, many scholars have rejected this possibility, including Australian art critic Robert Hughes in his 2003 biography Goya. Many agree that Pepita Tudó is a more likely candidate. Others believe that the woman is a composite of several different models.
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  • Reclining Venus: The painting is the depiction of a nude woman reclining on a fainting couch.


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