The Greatest Gift, Ever…

The 1912 Segovia guitar

In 1912 the young Andres Segovia presented himself at the workshop of the legendary guitar maker Manuel Ramirez and asked to hire an instrument for a concert in Madrid: an idea unheard of at the time. Amused at first by the young man’s unusual request and his outlandish appearance (Segovia favoured a foppish style of dress), Manuel decided to go along with him and gave him a standard guitar, perhaps the nearest on hand, to try out. Upon hearing him play, however, Manuel soon realized that the young and as yet unknown, guitarist had extraordinary talent. As a result, Ramirez presented Segovia with the finest guitar in his workshop as a gift. This was Segovia’s first concert quality guitar, the one with which he was to build his legendary fame and which would represent the sound of the Spanish guitar for over 25 years during his globe-trotting tours of the world’s greatest cities. This instrument now rests in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


Theme from La Maja de Goya by Enrique Granados

Two of Goya’s best known paintings are The Nude Maja (La Maja Desnuda) and The Clothed Maja (La Maja Vestida), both pictures depict the same woman in the same pose. Goya painted La Maja Vestida after outrage in Spanish society over the Desnuda. Without a pretense to allegorical or mythological meaning the painting was “the first totally profane life-size female nude in Western art”. He refused to paint clothes on her, and instead created a new painting:

The identity of the Maja is uncertain. The most popularly suggested subjects are the Duchess of Alba, with whom Goya is thought to have had an affair, and the mistress of Manuel de Godoy, who subsequently owned the pictures. In 1808 the paintings were seized by Ferdinand VI, and in 1813 the Inquisition confiscated both works as ‘obscene’.

The Spanish composer Granados wrote La Maja da Goya after seeing the pictures and you can see Segovia playing the whole piece in the Prado Museum in Madrid, next to both the paintings:

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