So how about a racy photo for your Valentine? This lovely lady certainly agrees. However the Inquisition did not, and confiscated this pair of peek-a-boo paintings. Which do you think the church disapproved of? Or approved of so much that they decided to snatch them? To quote Monty Python, “no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, ” and naughty Goya had to answer to Senor Inquisitor in 1814.
The reclining naked lady has a glorious history in art but not so much in Spain (Velasquez painted Venus 150 years prior, but only a back view). The “odalisque” (in art speak) has been painted since antiquity, but normally in the context mythological stories or biblical allegory. Goya tried to pass this off as Venus and thus sanitize it for the Inquisition, but no one was fooled. Why would you paint a fully clothed Venus? Nah. . .This was Godoy’s (Spain’s power broker at the time) mistress giving us a “come hither” look — definitely not in the tradition of spiritual purity. These hang on the same wall at the Prado which gives you chance to study them side by side, although the clothed one probably hung over the nude one in Godoy’s palace.
No surprise, Goya spent much more time on the nude lover. Her body transects the plane of the canvas on an almost perfect diagonal giving a sense of motion to the relaxed figure. Which also puts the pelvis front and center. Hmm… certainly not Venus here, lads. And I love the lacey pillowcases, don’t you? Is it just me or is she sucking in her tummy?