Beltran Masses, Federico

Guira de la Melena, Cuba 1885 - Barcelona 1949
Biography & List of works

La Maja Maldita (The Wicked Maja)

La Maja Maldita (The Wicked Maja)


Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 161.5 x 202 cm

Signed: Lower right: F. Beltran Masses, 25/11/18


Estate of the artist; his wife Sra. Irene Narezo de Beltran; her heirs, Barcelona.


Catalogo della XIIa Esposizione Internationale d’Arte della Città di Venezia MCMXX, Casa Editrice d’Arte Bestetti & Tumminelli, Roma-Milan-Venezia, 1920, no. 9, p.22; L’Arte mondiale alla Esposizione di Venezia MCMXX, Francesco Sapori, Istituto Italiano d’Arti Grafiche, Bergamo, 1920; José Francés ,’Federico Beltran Masses’, Federico Beltran Masses, Estrella, Madrid, 1920, no. 33, pp.16-18, ills.; Louis Vauxcelles, L’Œuvre de Federico Beltran Masses, éditions D’art Vizzavona, Paris, 1921, ills; Œuvres de Federico Beltran Masses, Paris, 1921; Federico Beltran Masses, Madrid, 1921; Exhibition of paintings by Federico Beltran Masses, Wildenstein Galleries, New York, 1924; Raymond Bouyer, ‘Extrait de la Revue d’art ancien et moderne, décembre 1921’, Sur l’œuvre de Beltran Masses, Paris, 1924, p.9; Luis Doreste, Sur l’œuvre de Beltran Masses, Paris, 1924, p.12; José Francès, Sur l’œuvre de Federico Beltran Masses, Paris, 1924, p.16; Ventura Garcia-Calderon, Sur l’œuvre de Federico Beltran Masses, Paris, 1924, p.18; Camille Gronkousky, ‘La Renaissance de l’Art français’, Sur l’œuvre de Federico Beltran Masses, Paris, 1924, p.21; Homem Christo, Sur l’œuvre de Federico Beltran Masses, Paris, 1924, p.23; H.Le Noffihc, ‘Extrait de l’Action Coloniale, 25 décembre 1921, Sur l’œuvre de Federico Beltran Masses, Paris, 1924, p.25; Camille Mauclair, ‘L’Art’, Sur l’œuvre de Federico Beltran Masses, Paris, 1924, p.31; Francis de Miomandre, Sur l’œuvre de Federico Beltran Masses, Paris, 1924, p.32; Leon Pacheo, Sur l’œuvre de Federico Beltran Masses, Paris, 1924, p.38; Pawlowski, Sur l’œuvre de Federico Beltran Masses, Paris, 1924, p.40; Daniel Ruzo, Sur l’œuvre de Federico Beltran Masses, Paris, 1924, p.45; Rafael Villaseca, Sur l’œuvre de Federico Beltran Masses, Paris, 1924, p.50; F. Paillart, Paris, 1924; Exhibition of paintings by the Spanish Master Federico Beltran Masses, Stendhal Galleries, Los Angeles, 1925; ‘Masses’ Emotional Art’, International Studio, August, 1925, p.367-370; Sonia Wolfson, Art and Artists, LA Exhibition Review, 1925, pp.5, 22;  L’Exposition des Illustrations du Triomphe de la mort de Gabriel D’Annunzio et des œuvres de Federico Beltran Masses, Galerie Javal et Bourdeaux, Paris, 4 – 24 May, 1929, p. 11; Marcel Barrière, L‘Œuvre de F. Beltran Masses’, Beauté magazine, no. 14, Paris, Spring 1931, p.98.


L’Exposition espagnole, Petit Palais, Paris, 1919; XII Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della città di Venezia, 1920, Room  5, no 9; Cercle Interallié, 33 faubourg St-Honoré, Paris, 103 paintings, 15 November – 30 December 1921; Wildenstein Galleries, New York, 1924, Room II, no. 26; The Society of the Arts, Whitehall, Palm Beach, 1925; Stendhal Galleries, The Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, 1925, no. 23 (asking price of US $20,000); Federico Beltran Masses, New Burlington Galleries, under the patronage of His Majesty the King of Spain, London, 14 June – 6 July, 1929; Federico Beltran Masses, Torreón de Lozoya, Caja Segovia, 2008, ills., p.59; Federico Beltran Masses: un pintor en la corte de Hollywood, Museu Diocesà, Barcelona, 2011, no. 11, p.32; Galerie Alain Blondel, Paris, 2012; Federico Beltran Masses: Castizo cosmopolita, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid, 2012, ills., p.117, p.136; Federico Beltran Masses, Blue Nights and Libertine Legends, Stair Sainty Gallery, London, Oct-Nov 2012, no. 6, pp.70-75.

For contemporary critics and collectors, La Maja Maldita was perhaps the most famous of Beltran Masses’ œuvre.  The fact that it is also a portrait of an extraordinary figure from the world of dance has been subsumed by the painting’s drama and title.

The sitter, Carmen Tortóla Valencia (1882-1955), was a dancer who invented her own unique style based on a study of Arab, Indian and African dance, combining the African-Carribbean music with that of her Spanish heritage. Like her near contemporary Isadora Duncan (1877-1927) she eschewed the strictures of conventional technique, instead embracing a freedom of movement that set both apart from the traditions of classical dance. Her innovative approach and extravagant performances brought her extraordinary fame and sold out performances across Europe and South and Central America, while she also took the lead roles in two Spanish silent films – Pasionaria and Pacto de lágrimas (both in 1917).

Her unrestrained private life cast her in some eyes as the Accursed Maja of the title of this painting – the liberated seductress who had abandoned the corset as a an unwieldy restraint on female movement, whose male lovers were chosen for their intellect but with little regard to permanence, while her long-term companion was a woman, Ángeles Magret Vilá. She rejected the Catholic faith of her ancestors and instead embraced Buddhism, vegetarianism and morphine, but managed nonetheless to make a considerable fortune which enabled her to retire from the stage in 1930.

Her dancing and striking looks inspired poems by the Basque poet Pio Baroja,[i] the dramatist and later anarchist Ramón del Valle Inclan[ii] and the Nicaraguan born writer Ruben Dario.[iii] This portrait of her as the Maja Maldita is perhaps the truest to her character of all the many images of her in dance poses, sometimes wearing even more revealing costumes. Unlike these photographs, however, Beltran’s painting portrays her recumbent, a mysterious seductress; there is no hint of movement or of the source of her fame. She stares into the distance, her vermillion lips emphasising her pale features, her unclothed right arm just touching the guitar that is a feature of so many of Beltran’s paintings. Through the darkened window, framed by long translucent fabric, we glimpse a mysterious building placed against a deep blue starlit sky.

[i] Con tus uñas clavadas en mi cuello moriría, creyendo que dos rosas con sus espinas fieras y celosas señalaban mi muerte con el sello de las muertes gloriosas.

[ii] Tiene al andar la gracia del felino, /es toda llena de profundos ecos, /anuncian sus corales y sus flecos / un sueño oriental de lo divino. / Cortó su mano en un jardín de Oriente / una manzana del árbol prohibido / y enroscada a sus senos la serpiente / devora la lujuria de un sentido sagrado / mientras, en la tiniebla transparente / de sus ojos, la luz pone un silbido.

[iii] Iba en un paso rítmico y felino / a avances dulces, ágiles o rudos, / con algo de animal y de felino…/ La bailarina de los pies desnudos./ Su falda era la falda de las rosas, / en su pecho había dos escudos.. / constelada de casos y de cosas.. /La bailarina de los pies desnudos.