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Frida Kahlo

(Kahlo, Frida.) Sternberger, Marcel. Portrait of Frida Kahlo

Mexico City, 1952, printed 2017

Gelatin silver print (16 x 20 in.). Archivally framed. Estate Edition, a limited edition of 20 copies, embossed and numbered.

Frida Kahlo is shown here in a frontal view, with flowers in her hair as she frequently appeared. The blossoms were often from her native Mexico. The flowers Kahlo often showed in her paintings are usually interpreted as symbols of fertility.

Kahlo was married to the equally famous artist Diego Rivera. Rivera is remembered as full of machismo, as a philanderer, dominating the women in his life. While in some of their portraits Frida lies with her head on his lap, gazing admiringly at her husband, Sternberger’s wife, Ilse, tells of a different moment reversing those roles:

“One day is especially vivid in my memory… Frida was dramatically beautiful in one of her favorite richly embroidered dresses from the region of Oaxaca, heavy woolen ribbons woven into her dark braids, long earrings dangling past her cheeks. Suddenly she admitted to being tired, and Rivera carried her upstairs to her four-poster bed – in which she did a lot of her painting, with the canvas affixed above her.

“‘Frida will not come with us to the party,” he said when he returned. “She has much pain today (sic).’

“We had all been invited by a famous Mexican movie star, Maria Felix, with whom Rivera had been temporarily infatuated. I wondered aloud if it wouldn’t be better to cancel altogether.

“‘Oh no, no – we must go!’ Diego insisted. I will just tell (sic) good-bye to Frida…’ and he walked heavily up the stairs again. We waited – five minutes, ten…

“‘ I’ll see what’s keeping Diego,’ I said, and followed him. The door to Frida’s bedroom was open, and I saw Rivera kneeling beside her bed, his large head in her lap. She put her hand lightly on his hair, and he took it and kissed it, with reverence.”

Frida Kahlo is an icon of modern feminism who is admired for her physical and spiritual endurance. This photograph captures a more reserved facet of the artist’s personality.