Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird [Frida Kahlo]

Marguerite Elliot


In another wonderfully weird self-portrait, Frida Kahlo shows off her animal menagerie and sends mixed signals.

While Frida clearly had an active imagination, she’s not makin’ these monkeys up. Exotic animals roamed around her house and garden. Parrots, monkeys, deer, and cats provided companionship, and their furry little faces often pop up in her paintings. To explain the reccuring selfies, Kahlo said, “I paint self portraits because I am the person I know best. I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other considerations.” A bit self-centered, but at least she can admit it!

At the time she painted this, she was having an affair with New York photographer Nickolas Murray and had filed for divorce from Diego Rivera. This painting was a gift to her new lover. Now, if US Weekly can determine the exact nature of Brangelina’s marital woes from their body language at an awards show, we should be able to mine the symbols in this painting to see how Frida felt about her ending marriage and the guy on the side.

First of all, let’s talk about the “Thorn Necklace.” Not a great sign for Nickolas off the bat. Hopefully the choking feeling refers to her messy divorce, and not her paramour. In any case, the Christ reference is slightly melodramatic. In another strike against budding romance, there is a dead hummingbird hanging from her neck. This is not only creepy, but a symbolic downer as well. In Mexico, hummingbirds are a symbol of luck, so between the unlucky bird and the black cat, it seems like Frida (and Nickolas) are fresh out of it. Though the shape of the wings does echo the majestic arc of her unibrow quite nicely.

Okay so what about the monkeys? Monkeys are super cute and cuddly! Score one for Murray, right? Well, not really. This particular monkey was a gift from her soon-to-be ex. That’s gotta be the art historical equivalent of talking about your last relationship all throughout a first date. But there is still hope! Everyone knows that butterflies emerge as beautiful bugs only after changing in their cocoons, so their inclusion here may symbolize transformation and resurrection. Besides, Rivera sortof looked like a caterpillar. So good riddance!


Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird [Frida Kahlo] is mentioned on Sartle Blog -