In 1797, Francisco Jose de Goya traveled through Andalusia with the beautiful and capricious Duchess of Alba. The two Maya paintings were completed around 1797. Together with a superficial likeness, this gave rise to considerable speculation. Yet even without projecting any such connection, these paintings would be no less provocative.
" Maya" is the Spanish word used to describe an ordinary girl of the lower classes when she dressed up in the latest fashion and finery. She is both simple and special, one of the people, and the feast for the eyes at the same time. Goya's Maya is no Venus; what we see here is not sublimated sensuality in the disguise of antiquity, but sensuality itself. Her pose is obvious, her challenge bold. Goya shows her both clothed and naked: nudity is not a mythological attribute here, but simply a state of undress. By dispensing with traditional patterns, the artist creates a scene of provocative reality.