An Amusing "First" for The Great Romantic Revolution in The Arts

Walter Donway's picture
Submitted by Walter Donway on Fri, 2013-09-06 00:19
The Nude Maja

From Romantic Revolution Books, this evening...

The life of the Spanish artist, Francisco Goya, fits perfectly into the heart of the Romantic Movement, pivoting around the year 1800. Goya pursued and became famous for hugely disparate subjects, making his name (and position) as a portrait painter at the center of the Spanish royal court, but, during and after the invasion of Spain by Napoleon, and the fierce and bloody Spanish resistance, he painted first his famous and unforgettable scenes of war--and then turned increasingly to grotesque horrors of war cruelty and monstrous inhumanity.

To top it all, and on a lighter note, he is credited with painting the first explicit depiction of pubic hair in a Western painting, his "The Nude Maja." It is speculated to depict the Duchess of Alba. The Catholic Church in Spain made its depiction unthinkable in Goya's lifetime, and the painting had adventures before it ever was seen in public.

It is not surprising that the Romantic movement achieved this "first": indeed, the painting is also characterized as "the first totally profane life-size female nude in Western art." For "profane," here, read "unashamedly of this world," because this was the first nude not presented under the cover of being allegorical or mythological.

I speculate that having seen war up close, with scenes stripped of all possible moral or even comprehensible meaning, Goya began to see a world unveiled and unmediated by an imposed higher meaning. And so painted a beautiful and sensual woman simply as she was, without lofty airs... Or so I like speculate.

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TVR: a wonderful sidelight on this topic

Walter Donway's picture

Thanks for letting me know about this; it is fascinating.

The literal Latin translation of "profane," I gather, is "outside the temple."


An Unamusing "First" For Stamp Collectors

tvr's picture


Thank you for this interesting read.

How female beauty can be considered "totally profane" is beyond me. But then again, religion is beyond me.

An interesting tidbit from Wikipedia:

"Two sets of stamps depicting La maja desnuda in commemoration of Goya's work were privately produced in 1930, and later approved by the Spanish Postal Authority. That same year, the United States government barred and returned any mail bearing the stamps. This was the first time that a stamp represented a naked woman."

See the amusing unamused reaction of the American philately below.

Both the stamp and the fracas surrounding it would have been of some interest to Ayn Rand I am sure given that she was an avid stamp collector and leading proponent of the Romantic arts. I wonder if she ever ended up adding a La maja desnuda stamp to her collection (?).


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