“Two Nudes in the Forest (The Land Itself),” a painting by Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), set a new auction record for the late Mexican painter when it sold for $8 million at Christie’s sale of impressionist and modern art Thursday night. The previous auction record for Kahlo was $5.6 million.
In addition to setting a record for Kahlo’s work, the $8 million sale also sets the record for any Latin American artist at auction. The previous record, also at Christie’s, was Rufino Tamayo’s “Trovador,” which achieved $7,209,000 in May, 2008.
Kahlo’s 1939 painting depicts two naked women sitting in a forest. The light-skinned woman lays her head on another dark-skinned woman’s lap. In the background, a monkey observes the scene, which is a traditional symbol for sin and the devil. It was originally entitled as “The Earth Itself” and was a gift from Kahlo to her intimate girlfriend, Mexican movie start Dolores del Rio.
The painting’s imagery has been the subject of many interpretations – and some controversy. Kahlo herself was openly bi-sexual, and some say the painting is an expression of this. Others claim the theme is not sexual at all, but reveals questions about Kahlo’s duality: the European and the Mexican Indian – the comforter and the one being comforted.
The two female figures have also appeared in Kahlo’s painting “What I saw in the Water.”
“Two Nudes in the Forest” was last auctioned by Sotheby’s in 1989 with an estimated bidding price of $160,000. It was purchased by Mary Anne Martin. Pop star Madonna tried to acquire this painting, but was outbid.
Story compiled with information from The Associated Press, Christie’s Auction House, and FridaKahlo.org