On the occasion of the recent death in Seville, on last 20th November, Mrs. María del Rosario Cayetana Victoria Alfonsa Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva, 19th Duchess of Alba and Duchess of Berwick, again it has come to the colloquial today and not only the social journals, the traditional fantasy of the love affair between the then Duchess of Alba (María Teresa del Pilar Cayetana de Silva) and Francisco de Goya. An urban legend, all a romantic myth, which was dismantled by Mrs. Manuela Mena together with German historian Gudrun Mühle-Maurer at the end of 2006 or beginning of 2007. After a two-year study, both documented a relationship between Goya and the Duchess “more real and rigorous”. The thesis of Mrs. Manuela Mena, who shares in many cases, is that “you must see Goya from a historical-artistic point of view pure and simple”. And in another moment as said Roberto Longhi, that historians should have critical spirit and put into question all it says. Because “The History of Art is not science, but we are looking for the truth, as scientists.”

However there are more or less conspicuous doubts that time will dissipate, especially when the myth is so strong and attractive at all times there will be who tilt is more for the sentimental and popular thesis than by the documentary and scientific arguments by conclusive they may be. And this happens until today, even in the opinion of famous scientists and historians, as says the same Gudrun Mühle-Maurer when referring to his master.


la maja vestida de Goya

The clothed Maja. Oil on canvas. 95 x 188 cm
Francisco de Goya. Circa 1802-1805. Prado Museum. Madrid

The Prado Museum has published a few days ago a report that refutes, once again, that the portrayed in the famous paintings of ‘The nude Maja’ and ‘The clothed Maja’ was precisely the aforementioned Duchess (thesis that could leave in written in 1843 the French writer Louis Viardot, who says that in the Academia de San Fernando – where the Majas hid during the 19th century – “(even then) believed that it represented the Duchess of Alba”). The Prado, on the other hand, argues that the protagonist of the paintings is the Valencian Josefa Tudó, Countess of Castillofiel, which then was the mistress of Godoy. The Prime Minister of Charles IV, Godoy, was who instructed Goya both Majas for his personal collection.

The museum describes this Countess: “she was born in 1779 in Cadiz and was of Catalan origin. In 1797 her presence was pointed out in the Court of Spain along with Godoy, who asked the poet Meléndez Valdés, a friend of Goya, he composed verses in her honor (…) On the death of the Countess of Chinchón – wife of Godoy-in 1828, the Castillofiel married Godoy in Rome and could not return to Spain until the death of king Fernando VII, who felt a great contempt for her.”


The question is, now, who is the woman of the Majas, Josefa (Pepita) Tudó or María Teresa de Alba?


Retrato de Josefa Tudó

Portrait of Josefa Tudó. Miniature
Unknown autor. Lázaro Galdiano Museum. Madrid


Like now Manuela Mena and Gudrun Mühle-Maurer, the first biographer of Goya, French Charles Yriarte, in 1867, contradicts the thesis of the “like” between the Maja and the Duchess, precisely, among other arguments, by the lack of resemblance. Paradoxically (!) by the resemblance must be between the Tudó and the Majas, as shown in the thumbnail of the portrait of the Countess of Castillofiel, Josefa Tudó, by an unknown author, which is preserved in the Lázaro Galdiano Museum in Madrid


Filmmakers such as Carlos Saura or Bigas Luna, among others, had no difficulty in entering this story and make films about the same, but above them is the figure of another Aragonese more than illustrious: Luis Buñuel. In the autumn of 1926 receives the order – then failed – from the Magna Board of the centenary of Zaragoza, also called regional board to distinguish it from the national , to write a scenario or literary script – and subsequently a segmentation or developing more technical- for the making of a film of episodes about Goya. Luis Buñuel, as well recounts Gonzalo M. Borrás (1), takes it seriously and even make a trip to Fuendetodos in 1926, accompanied by members of the Board (probably those of the Special Commission, led by Eloy Chóliz and other relevant people from the city).

Insignia del centenario de Goya

The Centennial logo of Goya
Zaragoza, 1928

Buñuel is documented on the biography of Goya, and lets himself in a way be inspired by Salcedo, by the count of Viñaza and by the Frenchmen Charles Yriarte and the imaginative Matheron, which comes to bet on a haggard and romantic biography of Goya and his passionate life; which is far from the thinking of the Board. To Buñuel, the Duchess of Alba was constant obsession in life of Goya and the culminating theme of his film, but due to several circumstances film project fails “although officially only be given economic reasons”.

There are those who show joy by this failure, because thereby prevented that Buñuel could commit an error in his film career. But there are also people like Nigel Glendinning, lament that not take forward given the personal similarities existing between Buñuel and his theme, sharing with Goya his origin and Aragonese environment, deafness and the belief in the freedom of the artist.

As it still happens today, throughout the 20th century has continued living this romantic idea and to such an extent has come the dilemma that in 1945 the own Duke of Alba, Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart y Falcó – following a custom then very much in vogue- ordered to exhume the remains of his ancestor, in order to demonstrate her bones correspond to the anatomy of the nude Maja.

On the contrary, since last few days the brand new Duke of Alba, Carlos Fitz-James Stuart and Martínez de Irujo, in 2012 declared that “the Duchess that Goya painted made institutionally much damage to the House of Alba”


With so many comings and goings, both postulator of one or another cause, perhaps the always erudite and serene Jeannine Baticle (2) gives us the best example considering rigorously her conclusion about the same: devouring passion which the romantic authors have attributed to him probably existed only in their imagination.


Gonzalo de Diego


(1)Goya : La Duquesa de Alba y Goya: Guión y sinopsis cinematográfica. (Goya: The Duchess of Alba and Goya: screenplay and film synopsis)

Teruel Studies Institute. Luis Buñuel collection. Teruel, 1992. Introduction of Gonzalo M. Borrás.

(2) Jeannine Baticle, “Goya y la Duquesa de Alba: ¿Qué tal?” (Goya and the Duchess of Alba: What about it?)

In Goya. Nuevas Visiones. Tribute to Enrique Lafuente Ferrari, friends of the Prado Museum, 1987.