MAJA WITH A SMALL DOG, 1865, Eugenio Lucas Velázquez

One of the most impressive paintings that will catch your eye when you visit the Carmen Thyssen Museum in Málaga is this completely relaxed "Maja with a Small Dog". It was painted in 1865 by the madrileño, Eugenio Lucas Velázquez, one of the most popular artists of the Spanish Romantic period, considered the best successor to Goya.

Undoubtedly, Eugenio Lucas is paying homage to Goya's masterful work, the Maja, of which there are two versions, one clothed and one nude. Eugenio preferred the clothed Maja to the nude Maja, which allowed him to tell a much fuller story.

* Report by art historian and educator , Karla Darocas, Hons. B.A. (

At the beginning of the 19th century, Romanticism emerged as a reaction to the rationalism of the neoclassical movement. It was a time when Spanish intellectuals were just trying to modernise their society and create a national identity different from that of their European neighbours.

The maja, and the way she dressed was revolutionary for her time because she challenged the traditional dress that women wore in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Maja's dress was characterised by its simplicity and practicality, but also by its richness of colour and decorative character. It was also revolutionary because it challenged traditional notions of femininity and fashion in Spanish society and became a powerful symbol of national identity and cultural pride. In addition, the Maja dress was also associated with the Spanish working class, especially the residents of Madrid. By adopting the maja dress, members of the middle and upper classes were able to connect with the common people and show their support for the growing nationalist movement.

Eugenio Lucas became known for his paintings of picturesque scenes of the amorously dressed, majas, displaying their skills in artful flirtation, if not shameless provocation. Except for this painting, his other works show the majas in pairs, on balconies or in bullrings, or they are paired with their male counterparts, the majos.

These charming figures of national identity in easel-sized paintings brought him great success with his clientele. This painting is the culmination of his oeuvre and certainly the most ambitious and spectacular of the painter's known examples in this genre.

Let's Take A Closer Look at This Painting

A young Maja is sitting by a river in the open, leaning against a rock. She is dressed almost exactly like Goya's Maja, in a white, light dress cinched at the waist; however, his beauty's sash is blue, not pink.  Both wear a short jacket or bolero with orange sleeves, and cuffs decorated with black lace, and slippers of golden silk with pointy toes. This Maja also has a red travelling cloak or cape.

Eugenio Lucas uses a particularly rich colour palette. The paint is applied in soft, sweeping brushstrokes. The thick impasto makes her jewellery sparkle, as do the metallic highlights of her hairnet and the embellishments on her clothing.

The silvery tones of the cloudy sky contrast beautifully with the bright colours of her clothing.

The landscape with the tiny figures is typical of the romantic landscapes of the period, however these tiny figures are bulls and bull herders. In 19th century Spanish paintings, bulls and bull herders gave the idea of Spanish national identity and cultural heritage. They were seen as embodying the country's spirit and traditions, and their depiction in art helped to reinforce these ideas.

Like the Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, her smile seems to be ambiguous and somewhat elusive. Her lips appear to be both smiling and not smiling at the same time, creating a sense of mystery and intrigue. Her eyes are also a notable feature of her expression. They are slightly downturned at the outer corners, giving her a look of contemplation or sadness. Yet, at the same time, her gaze is direct and engaging, creating a sense of connection with the viewer.

Sensuality, femininity, flirtation, seduction, virtue, purity, innocence, fidelity, domesticity, devotion: all these are symbolised by Eugenio Lucas in his Maja.

In her right hand this Maja holds a fan. In many cultures the fan is associated with feminine sensuality and beauty. A woman holding a fan could represent the image of a beautiful and seductive woman. The fan could be seen as an extension of her femininity, emphasising her grace and elegance. The fan was also used as a means of flirtation and seduction. A woman holding a fan could be interpreted as being playful and teasing, using the fan to convey subtle messages to her suitor.

In her left hand she holds a red rose, which is often associated with romantic love and passion. In this context, a woman holding a red rose can be seen as a symbol of her own desire or as a representation of the recipient's desire for her.

This Maja also has extremely long black hair pinned up into a hairpiece and a hairnet tied with a bow at the back.

Women with long hair were often seen as symbols of virtue, purity and innocence. The idea that a woman's hair is a symbol of her femininity and virtue has its roots in many cultures and eras, but it became particularly popular in the 19th century.

Catholic women were often encouraged to wear their hair long and uncut, which was seen as a sign of their devotion to God or their husbands. Long hair was also associated with romance and a kind of "fairytale" aesthetic that was popular in 19th century literature and art.

At her side is a white lapdog. In 19th century Romantic art, lapdogs were often used as symbols of luxury, femininity and domesticity. Lapdogs were small and often dainty dogs that were bred to be companions. They were often depicted in portraits and genre scenes as accessories for the female figure.

The lapdog was often illustrated as the faithful and devoted companion of his mistress, underlining the idea of the ideal female role as nurturer and caregiver. In this context, the lapdog became a symbol of domesticity and the feminine ideal.

Furthermore, lapdogs were often depicted in a way that emphasised their delicate beauty and fine nature. They were shown wearing ornate collars and bows and often positioned to emphasise their size in relation to the female figure, reinforcing the idea of the dog as a luxury object.

In summary, Eugenio Lucas Velázquez used iconic symbols and a refined Goyaesque painting style to create a very appealing Maja that was able to characterise modernity and progress while preserving traditional Spanish values and customs.

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