Frida Kahlo | Autorretrato con Traje de Terciopelo | Oil on canvas | 78 x 61 cms | 1926 Private Collection | Courtesy of Arvil Gallery | Mexico
The aristocratic pose reflects Frida’s interest in the paintings of the Italian Renaissance period. It was painted as a gift for her boyfriend, Alejandro, who had left her suspecting her of infidelities. Alejandro admired Italian Renaissance art and would often give Frida reproductions of Old Masters paintings. “Self-Portrait in a Velvet Dress” is Frida’s interpretation of Botticelli‘s “Venus” which Alejandro admired. Frida began this self-portrait in the summer of 1926 and sent it to him in late September. On the back of the painting she inscribed a dedication: “For Alex. Frida Kahlo, at the age of 17, September 1926 – Coyoacan -Heute ist Immer Noch” (Today still goes on). In March of 1927, Alejandro’s parents sent him on a four month tour of Europe with his uncle….mainly to separate him from Frida of whom they did not approve. By then Alejandro had also grown tired of Frida and wanted to escape from her “possessive” grip. While he was away, Frida wrote to him often to express her feelings and love for him. Alejandro was supposed to return in July but July came and went and Alejandro was still in Europe. When he finally returned in November there was a brief reconciliation with Frida but soon their relationship diminished and they drifted apart. This self-portrait was one of four paintings that Frida took to show Diego Rivera and ask his opinion of her work. After viewing the paintings, Rivera remarked that he was most interested in this self-portrait “…. because it is the most original” he said.
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