- Framing Majismo: Art and Royal Identity in Eighteenth-Century Spain by Tara Zanardi
Framing Majismo: Art and Royal Identity in Eighteenth-Century Spain is a welcome addition to an unjustly small field: the history of the visual arts in eighteenth-century Spain. English-language studies of Spanish art of this period, including important scholarship by Janis Tomlinson and Andrew Schulz, can almost be counted on one hand, and tend to focus on the protean work of Francisco de Goya. In her analysis of the visual representation of majas and majos—working-class types who embodied a certain vision of Spanish national identity—Tara Zanardi has produced a particularly rich account of eighteenth-century Spanish visual culture, one that includes not only the familiar names of Goya, Francisco Bayeu, and Anton Raphael Mengs, but also the history of dress, theater productions, popular prints, and decorative painting. The book's broad thematic scope will appeal both to scholars of Spanish art and to readers interested in problems of national identity, European court culture and elites, representations of the working class, and the history of dress.
The book's central claim is that majismo—the working-class aesthetic of majas and majos, and their depiction in the visual arts—was enthusiastically embraced by elite consumers in the second half of the eighteenth century as an embodiment of authentic Spanishness in the face of anxieties about outside influences on Spain (beginning with the Bourbon dynasty installed in 1700) and the reforms associated with Enlightenment thought. Zanardi argues that majismo was culturally effective because it accommodated social tensions in Spanish society surrounding gender roles, class hierarchies, and the conflict between tradition and modernity. Her study of majismo in the visual arts, as she clearly delineates in her introduction, focuses on noble and royal patronage and on Madrid; the book is organized thematically rather than chronologically or by medium. [End Page 345]
The first chapter defines majismo as a visual style by tracing the representation of class and regional types back to the seventeenth century, and by identifying references to majos and majas in plays, prints of popular types, and genre painting. Zanardi argues here, and throughout the book, that majismo allowed artists to promote both popular customs and a modern national aesthetic. The following chapters map the relationship between majismo, gender norms, and class hierarchies. Chapter 2 analyzes how visual representations of the majo type defined Spanish masculinity for elite patrons. Using Judith Butler's theory of gender performativity, and analysis of works by Lorenzo Tiepolo and Goya, Zanardi argues that the majo was a complex, unstable social type that partook of traits understood as male and female. The third chapter builds on her argument about the performance of masculinity by examining how the visual arts participated in the fan culture surrounding the bullfight. Zanardi traces the transformation of bullfighting from an aristocratic pastime to a popular entertainment that made celebrities out of working-class fighters, and correlates this history with visual representations of the bullfighter's body, from print series by Goya and other artists to Goya's portrait of the matador Pedro Romero.
In her final two chapters, Zanardi shifts her focus from masculinity to femininity. She argues that the persona of the maja, celebrated for her independence, mobility, and frank sexuality, was appropriated by elite women as a model of both Spanish tradition and modern femininity. Drawing on literary texts, political tracts, the history of dress, and works by Goya, Tiepolo, and Luis Paret y Alcázar, Zanardi argues that the maja's fluid identity allowed elite women to claim political and social agency but also crystalized cultural anxieties about Spanish women's increasing participation in cultural and political life. The last chapter takes as its case studies the famous Goya portraits of the Duchess of Alba and Queen María Luisa, juxtaposing these works with other portraits and fashion prints celebrating maja style. This chapter, despite the title of the book, is the only one that treats...