Gentlemen’s Club - The Naked Maja

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Gentlemen’s Club

Courtesans and Seductresses Depicted in Art
Curated by Gabbi Fenaroli

Francisco Goya, The Naked Maja, 1797
“A mistress should be like a little country retreat near the town,
not to dwell in constantly, but only for a night and away”
-William Wycherley

Not only do courtesans house secrets, but their identities also remain in question. The word maja describes someone of lower class society in France who are set apart by their cheeky behavior. Francisco Goya spares no detail to the imagination in his 1797 painting The Naked Maja. The painting along with its clothed twin belonged to Prime Minister Manuel de Godoy, Duke of Aludia.

Speculation arose that this curvaceous model was Maria Cayentana de Silva, 13th duchess of Alba. While others argue that Godoy’s mistress, Josefa de Tudo, was the model. Josefa, commonly known as Pepita, was Godoy’s lover by the age of eleven. Although Godoy went onto marry another woman, the nature of Peptia and his relationship remained the same. At the age of 16, she gave birth to his son, Manuel. Again in 1807, Godoy fathered another child with Pepita. Shortly after Goya painted The Naked Maja, the Spanish Inquisition questioned Goya about who commissioned the painting. Goya kept his lips sealed and never revealed who he had painted for.

The woman appears to have pearly skin that sets her apart from the dark background and lace bedding. She has an air of youth and innocence about her. The viewer feels like they have ruined a surprise. The woman lays waiting for her lover, fully embracing her status as a sexual object. She does not attempt to hide her naked body, on the contrary she ushers the viewer to come closer.

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