The jewelry of Frida Kahlo.


Recently, I visited the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach and for the 2nd time, saw the wonderful collection of painting by and of Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera that were owned by the Gelmans, film-makers in Mexico City.
Most of us are not strangers to the intrigueing brilliance of Frida Kahlo, but this time, I was even more absorbed by the jewelry that Frida is wearing in every photo and painting. Like her clothes, Frida's jewelry said a lot about her.

Frida Kahlo was a great Mexican nationalist. It therefore comes as no surprise that a lot of her jewelry is Mexican in subject as well as manufacture. Her father was German and he influenced her to wear jewelry as well. Classic Victorian jewels were also part of her repertoire, if a smaller part than indigenous American. On her mother's side, she was indigenous Mexican and Mexican and overwhelmingly, her jewelry represents this part of her complex persona.
When Frida went to the USA for an extended period of time, she bought Native American jewels.

Since Frida was an artist, she had an eye for strong design, the effect of a dangling earring or colored string of beads. Design, form, color, movement - all parts of Frida's world as a painter could hardly have failed to affect her eye in choice of jewelry.
Frida was highly emotional and jewelry is the perfect vehicle to express a rich emotional world.

What she wore and how she wore it.

Clearly she wore a lot of jewelry, all at once. Like the art Deco bangles riding up the entire arm of Nancy Cunningham, Frida wore masses of jewelry. Not so elegantly arranged - a much bigger hodgepode. On the other hand, Frida's jewelry was much more of a personal statement. Mexico was at the heart of who Frida was. Femininity was a big issue for Frida. We might see her as slim and beautiful, but she suffered from serious physical disability and could not have children due to a horrendous accident when she was a teenager. Maybe a womanising husband like Diego didn't add to her self-esteem as a woman (not that she didn't have her own share of lovers, both male and female). Either way, flowers and jewelry are both powerful feminising agents and Frida wore lots of them.

In almost every portrait we see of Frida, her neck is enclosed in strands upon strands of beaded necklaces, multiple long gold chains, all shown off to great effect by her hair, pulled up tightly above her ears, showing off her slender neck. The necklaces were more often than not balanced by long, dangling earrings. While many of her jewels may have been 'native Mexican', we see plenty of traditional Victorian earrings as well. Rings - Frida wore lots and lots of rings and many of them at the same time.

Frida's jewelry ranged in date from ancient Pre-Columbian to current. Materials may be rocks, shells or gold. No limits, no boundaries.
What an example of a lady who knew how to set trends and fashions! As with all of us, Frida's jewelry tells us so much about her. A woman with a rich, rich inner life, full of inner meanings, exotic, proud, nationalistic, feminine, deep.

Very sadly, when Frida died, her jewelry was stolen. It is said that Diego Riviera had intended for her to be burried with the whole lot. Just imagine ......!!!

 Frieda and Diego Rivera wedding.   

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