On 4 July 1932 Frida had a miscarriage in Detroit, after being under the supervision of her doctors, who recommended long periods of complete bed rest to bring her pregnancy to term. Her body, however, was unable to resist and she was finally taken to the Henry Ford Hospital, where an abortion was performed to finish the process that had begun at home.
Some days later, in a state of deep depression, Frida asked to be brought the fetus of her child so that she could paint it. She was not granted her wish, having to make do with some illustrations provided by Diego and her doctors, with which she began to create this work, named after the hospital in which she was cared for.
The painting shows her small, helpless body bleeding on an enormous bed. Her belly is still swollen and six different elements appear around her, attached to her hand by red ribbons, as though they were umbilical cords. On the right, above the head of the bed, floats a snail—a symbol of the slowness of the abortion, according to Frida. There is a male fetus in the middle, the wished-for son, and a pink orthopedic cast of the pelvic zone on the left, which alludes to the fractures of Frida’s spinal column. Below, on the left, there is a machine; in the middle, an orchid given to her by Diego; and finally, on the right, a pelvic bone. Tears pour from Frida’s eyes. There is a view of the Ford Motor Company in the industrial city of Detroit on the horizon, where Rivera was painting some murals.
“I aborted in the blinking of an eye,” Frida wrote to Dr. Leo Eloesser.
Henry Ford Hospital is the first painting for which Frida used a metal sheet as a support, in the tradition of Mexican ex-votos, or votive tablets.