Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Naked Maja" Postcards Cause a Fuss in 1959

An interesting item appeared in the International Herald Tribune fifty years ago this week.

According to the New York Times, which reprinted it, "The Post Office Department has reserved decision following a hearing on the mailability of colored postcards bearing a reproduction of Francisco Goya’s painting 'The Naked Maja,' used in advertising a motion picture."

It goes on to say, "William Duvall, hearing examiner, who presided at the one-day hearing in the General Post Office, gave both sides until Monday [April 27] to submit briefs. At issue were 2,268 postcards sent out by United Artists Corp. to advertise its film 'The Naked Maja,' starring Ava Gardner and Anthony Franciosa.

"The New York Post Office stopped the mailing, holding that it violated Sections 1461 and 1463 of Title 18, United States Code, forbidding the sending of 'lewd, lascivious or indecent' matter through the mails. United Artists protested the ruling.

"The original painting by Goya, which now hangs in the Prado Museum in Madrid, was said to have the Duchess of Alba as its model. She posed as a reclining nude. Robert M. Ague Jr., of the Post Office general counsel’s office, argued that the painting in the museum is not obscene, but that its use of a postcard to advertise a motion picture is 'sexy-pandering to a lewd and lascivious interest on the part of the average man.'”

As a footnote, a stamp depicting Goya's "Naked Maja" (shown here) was privately produced in 1930, and later approved by the Spanish Postal Authority. That same year, the United States government barred and returned any mail bearing the stamps.*

*If anyone has one of these covers (or something similiar), please contact me at The National Postal Museum is interested in obtaining an example of a card or letter that was returned due to the subject of the stamp used - be it obscenity or proproganda.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM