By Laura Shamas.
Cast: 3m., 2w. (minimum. May be expanded.) Our response to art is subjective. Is our reaction to art really based on the work itself, or on the "politically correct" values of our times? Portrait of a Nude traces the history of response to Francisco Goya's masterpiece "Naked Maja" from the time of its inception in 1798 in Spain to the recent sexual harassment case surrounding it in 1991 at an American university. Spanning 193 years and based on real events, the play is in four parts, detailing the portrait's impact in Spain, France, England and America. Goya first painted the portrait, "Naked Maja," known to be the Duchess of Alba, in 1798. Later he was summoned by the Spanish inquisition and forced to defend his work in order to save it from destruction. Manet, 50 years later, painted his work "Olympia" as an answer to Goya's "Naked Maja," which he much admired. Manet's work was labeled pornographic and had to be moved high up the wall of the exhibition hall in Paris to stop angry crowds from destroying it. Manet's career was nearly ruined by the scandal until a young writer named Zola wrote a treatise that defended it. In the late 1980s, in England, we experience the conflicts which occur when Goya's painting is considered inappropriate for viewing by both the princess and a schoolboy. The final part takes place at a college in America in 1991. A female professor feels harassed teaching in front of a print of the "Naked Maja." The professor demands to have something done about it. When the dean of her college doesn't act quickly enough, she investigates the possibility of a lawsuit—under the banner of sexual harassment. This play is a fascinating exploration of issues of artistic inspiration, history and censorship. Area staging.