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20th century Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, Frida Kahlo, 1940

Published on August 8th, 2017 | by Emre Kagitci

Frida Kahlo And The Symbolism In Her Art

Frida Kahlo who lived during the first half of the 20th century changed the art history in a way that she put her own dreams in her artworks. She was affected from several occasions as she had a bus accident and many love affairs that she expressed in an open manner. She used Christian symbolism merging with her own dreams that she called her reality.

After her periods of depression and miscarriages in her life she gave herself into pets around her. She liked to use monkeys, hummingbirds, dogs and cats in her artwork. One of her self-portrait depicts her with three spider monkeys surrendered Kahlo as a protective and tender symbols. On the contrary, Mexican mythology suggests monkeys are the symbols of lust and generally used in that manner.

Frida Kahlo symbolism Self Portrait with Monkeys, Frida Kahlo, 1943

Frida Kahlo, Self Portrait with Monkeys, 1943, private collection

Frida Kahlo’s most significant self-portrait was Self- Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird. According to some art historians, Kahlo wanted to depict that she was resurrected and started to a new life with this painting. As a symbol of this opinion, hummingbird was taking its place in her necklace. Hummingbird symbolizes hope and good luck in Mexican culture. However, audience may notice the black cat- known as bad luck symbol- taking its place behind the right shoulder of Kahlo. Different interpretations offer that hummingbird pendant refers to Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war, which hurts Kahlo internally.

Frida Kahlo symbolism Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, Frida Kahlo, 1940, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, Austin

Frida Kahlo, Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, Austin

Other important symbols of the painting were butterflies and thorn necklace. Butterflies symbolize resurrection and it may refer to her rebirth in life after the accident. Furthermore, thorn necklace she wears may be the symbol of Jesus’s crown thorn, which was worn while dragged and crucified.

Frida Kahlo symbolism Matthias Grünewald, Christ on Cross, 1470-1528, originally on the other side of the panel known as the Tauberbischofsheim altarpiece

Matthias Grünewald, Christ on Cross, 1470-1528, originally on the other side of the panel known as the Tauberbischofsheim altarpiece

In addition to these symbolizations, Kahlo had a painting that both uses Christianity and animal symbolism in one subject matter. Painting The Little Dear, 1946 made by Frida Kahlo depicts her as a deer, which has a face of the painter. However, there is a much more important detail in this artwork that deer was wounded by the arrows similar to Andrea Mantegna’s Saint Sebastian, 1480. This was also a reference to crucifixion and resurrection.

Frida Kahlo symbolism The Wounded Deer, Frida Kahlo, 1946, private collection

The Wounded Deer, Frida Kahlo, 1946, private collection

Frida Kahlo symbolism Saint Sebastian, Andrea Mantegna, 1431-1506, Louvre Museum, Paris

Saint Sebastian, Andrea Mantegna, 1431-1506, Louvre Museum, Paris

Frida’s strong character can be seen not only in her intriguing paintings, that are directly linked to her life, but also in her famous colorful clothing. Read our article “Looking For Fashion Inspiration? Check Out Frida Kahlo’s Clothing“.

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