There is no doubt that painting feet was a great challenge for artists and probably required more effort and work than drawing hands with finesse. If the artist added to his technical qualities, for example Botticelli, emotional feelings towards his muse, see Simonetta Cattaneo for instance, there ended up appearing on the canvas very captivating feet, those of the protagonist of the Birth of Venus, whose posture seems to be moving more towards the second basic position of ballet than to reinforce the goddess’s modesty. The devotion with which Botticelli produced the suggestive feet of his Venus contrasts with the crossed feet of Albert Dürer’s lively Eva. which seem to counteract that inciting right hand that pushes the apple tree branch toward an eager Adam. Undoubtedly, the feet of this Eve do not reflect devotion by the painter.
This devotion, which, for example, can be attributed to Goya in his portrait of the Duchess of Alba dressed as Maja, whose right index finger points to the painter’s name stamped on the sand and, on top of it, to some beautiful pointed shoes of glitter that sheathe Maria Theresa’s open-toed feet. The enticing position of these feet might have inspired the Spanish writer Ramón Gómez de la Serna to portray a romantic link between both characters in his biographic novel of Goya.Interestingly enough, Goya’s portraits of Queen Maria Luisa de Parma, displaying a hoop skirt and a black silk scarf, and of the Countess of Fernán Nuñez seated, show the same unattractive position with the tip of toes stretching outwardly. Perhaps someday we will know what motivated Goya to paint the feet of two ladies, of such different demeanor and, in a position certainly controversial.
What is uncontroversial is that the portrait called Goya’s Naked Maja is at the top of the list of the most scandalous artworks in the history of painting. In my opinion, the model’s feet are the best painted, sexiest, delicate and sensual of all those that can be seen in the Prado Museum. Incomprehensibly, the beautiful feet of the Maja are unjustly relegated to a secondary plane in the numerous chronicles and analyses of the painting. It’s about time we start doing them justice.