Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

When The Inquisition Met Nude Maja

Bodies And Erotic Art

When The Inquisition Met Nude Maja

Which one do you prefer?
The Nude Maja or The Clothed Maja?

This question might have been asked by the painter Francisco Goya when he completed both paintings and showed them side by side to the commissioner, Manuel de Godoy, Prime Minister of Spain (1792 to 1797).
Maja is not a name of the girl, as I used to think, but a general term describing people from the lower class of Spanish society in the late 18th to early 19th century, especially in Madrid. They were one of the favorite subjects of some 19th-century Spanish painters because they had very characteristic elaborate outfits and particular manners, as they often were described as cheeky…

Cheeky Godoy

Francisco Goya, The Nude Maja, c. 1797–1800, Museo del Prado, Madrid. nude maja

Francisco Goya, The Nude Maja, c. 1797–1800, Museo del Prado, Madrid

The Nude Maja came first: Prime Minister commissioned Goya for a painting of a naked girl to hang it in his private collection. He had a separate cabinet reserved for nude paintings only, as he liked to collect “questionable pictures”, such as Velazquez Rokeby Venus (in other words, he liked to look at naked ladies). One of the accounts says that the Clothed Maja was placed in front of the naked one and in order to reveal it, one had to pull a cord. Godoy retained the nude girl for six years before it was discovered by investigators for the Spanish Inquisition in 1808.

Cheeky Goya

Diego Velázquez, Rokeby Venus, c. 1647–51, National Gallery, London nude maja

Diego Velázquez, Rokeby Venus, c. 1647–51, National Gallery, London

The Inquisition confiscated all the works from the collection and brought Godoy and the curator of his collection, Don Francisco de Garivay, before a tribunal. They were forced to reveal the artists whose works were “so indecent and prejudicial to the public good.” Goya was in real trouble. How did he escape prosecution? Goya said that he had only followed and emulated traditional painters such as Titian (and his Venus or Danaë) and Velázquez. Inquisition couldn’t say a word because both the church and the court admired Titian and Velazquez and did not find anything offensive in the Rokeby Venus.

Cheeky Maja

Francisco Goya, The Clothed Maja, 1803, Museo del Prado, Madrid. nude maja

Francisco Goya, The Clothed Maja, 1803, Museo del Prado, Madrid

Who was the model for these paintings? Most proabably it was Godoy’s young mistress Pepita Tudó, although some say that Goya painted his own mistress or moreover, he mixed the features of several ladies. Whoever she was, she had an enormous influence on Wester art to follow as it was the first instance in which pubic hair was painted in a non-prostitution context, and the model challenged the viewer with her direct gaze.Any associations guys? Yes, Manet’s Olympia is likely to be inspired by The Nude Maja.


Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.


More in Bodies And Erotic Art

  • Bodies And Erotic Art

    Is Kylie Jenner the New Venus? Interview with the Artist Marco Battaglini


    Marco Battaglini is a contemporary Italian artist working in Costa Rica. In his work he mixes sacred with profane, trying to mediate between the ideals of classical beauty and the ‘anti-aesthetic’ of street art. His latest project entitled VENUS VICTRIX HODIE presents a contemporary Venus Kylie...

  • Bodies And Erotic Art

    One with Nature: Nude Paintings in Natural Settings


    Depictions of the nude figurative form is a time-honored artistic tradition dating back to antiquity. Depending on the period in question, the symbolism of nudity in artwork varies in associations ranging from fertility or athleticism and of course, the erotic. The depiction of nude figures set...

  • 21st century

    Andrés Marti: Every Experience Generates Roots


    According to Goethe, melancholy is a sense of sadness whose causes are unknown. Its symptoms are the only thing you are aware of, that’s why you end up intensely feeling the loss of something, but you don’t know exactly what it is. All you can do...

  • Bodies And Erotic Art

    Painting of the Week: François Boucher, La Toilette


    The soft rustle of silky cloth and the hard crackling of burning wood echo against the yellow papered walls of the boudoir. The small room is overflowing with sensual delights as two women perform a daily routine of dressing for the day ahead. A lady is...

  • Bodies And Erotic Art

    Top 10 Weird Christian Relics


    Heads, shoulders, knees, and toes… Saintly toes? The variety of saintly relics really offers it all. I hope all of this is not too morbid for you. We do have a lot of articles about nice things, like flowers, cats, or puppies. And food. Speaking of...

To Top