In 1940, Frida Kahlo painted a self portrait for her lover, the photographer Nickolas Muray. According to the Frida Kahlo fan site, the painting entitled “Autorretrato con collar de espinas” (or Self Portrait with Necklace of Thorns) features Kahlo wearing Christ’s crown of thorns
as a necklace, presenting herself as a Christian martyr. The thorns digging into her neck are symbolic of the pain she still feels over her divorce from Diego [Rivera]. Hanging from the thorny necklace is a dead hummingbird whose outstretched wings echo Frida’s joined eyebrows. In Mexican folk tradition, dead hummingbirds were used as charms to bring luck in love. Over her left shoulder the black cat, a symbol of bad luck and death, waits to pounce on the hummingbird. Over her right shoulder the symbol of the devil, her pet monkey…a gift from Diego. Around her hair, butterflies represent the Resurrection. Once again, Frida uses a wall of large tropical plant leaves as the background.
In late 2013, Florent Porta dropped the painting into Photoshop and brought everything in the background to life. If this short clip intrigues, you shouldn’t miss the recent viral video called “Beauty,” which animates paintings by Caravaggio, Vermeer, & other great masters.