Goya: The Origins of the Modern Temper in Art

By Fred Licht | Go to book overview

5
The Maias

In The Family of Charles IV, Goya interprets the problem of personality in a subversive, thoroughly modern way. Individuality, instead of being the comprehensible extension of divine will, becomes something fundamentally unknowable, something finite and essentially incomprehensible. The characters are shown staring into a mirror, eager to find out who they are. If they don't know who they are, how is Goya to know? How are we to know?

At the same time that Goya was investigating the new incomprehensibility of human personality, he painted yet another painting—or, rather, a pair of paintings—in which he moved from the general to the specific. The Family of Charles IV tells of general alienation: Everybody looks at himself—nobody looks at his closest neighbor. In The Clothed Maja (La maja vestida) [34] and The Naked Maja (La maja desnuda) [35], Goya focuses on one of the most fundamental of all human relationships: the relationship between man and woman.

The idea of painting two pictures of the same model in the same pose on canvases of identical format is in itself astonishing. It becomes even more peculiar when one considers that the female nude is practically nonexistent in Spanish painting. Velázquez's Rokeby Venus is an exception, of course, but any critic who equates it with female nudes as they were painted in Italy, Holland, Belgium, or Germany would be far off the mark. The historical and compositional mysteries that surround this painting make it another of Velázquez's great enigmas. But for all the sobriety of Velázquez's eye, the figure, though strikingly realistic, still refers to the world of mythology. The Naked Maja, however, is the first totally profane life-size female nude in Western art.

There has been much speculation about the two Majas. The hypothesis that the model was the duchess of Alba is probably mistaken. Perhaps the

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Goya: The Origins of the Modern Temper in Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Goya - The Origins of the Modern Temper in Art *
  • Contents *
  • List of Illustrations 6
  • Preface 9
  • Goya's Life in Brief 10
  • 1 - The Background 14
  • 2 - Tapestry Cartoons 22
  • 3 - Religious Paintings 46
  • 4 - The Family of Charles IV 67
  • 5 - The Maias 83
  • 6 - The Caprichos 92
  • 7 - The Second and Third of Way 104
  • 8 - The Disasters of War 128
  • 9 - The Black Paintings 159
  • 10 - Occasional Paintings 196
  • 11 - Portraits 218
  • 12 - Proletarian Paintings 257
  • Epilogue 274
  • Index 282
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