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Biography of the Duchess of Alba

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Not much is known about the thirteenth Duchess of Alba, the duchess that Goya painted in several paintings. In fact, nothing would be known about her today if she had not met Francisco Goya. She was considered one of the most beautiful women in Europe of the late 1700’s. Many scholars dispute whether or not the Duchess of Alba is different from the naked women of some of Goya’s other pictures.

Her full name was Doña Maria del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva Alvarez de Toledo, 13th Duchess of Alba de Tormes, and she lived in the Palacio de Liria in Madrid. The Palacio Real inspired the palace, and it was almost completely destroyed during the Spanish Civil War; it was rebuilt. "Alba" means white, which was her name because of her supposedly beautiful pale skin. She was born June 10th, 1762 and died in 1802. She was duchess from 1776 until her death in 1802. She dies of tuberculosis and dengue fever. She was married to Don José Alvarez de Toledo y Gonzaga, the Duke of Alba, but had many love affairs throughout her life, including one with Goya.

Goya painted the Duchess many times, and there are even pencil sketches of her. She also posed for him many times in his own studio. The Duchess also had Goya paint frescoes in the Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida. He supposedly painted several pictures of her naked, but scholars disagree. Most official scholars of Goya believe that the woman in "The Naked Maja" is different, maybe figment of Goya’s imagination based on the duchess, or that he used several women for the head and several women for the body. Most amateur lookers believe the close resemblance means that they are the same women. Interestingly enough, Goya was called before the Inquisition and banned from court painting for the "obscene" picture, but later it was made into a stamp.



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