Portrait of Miguel N. Lira

This is the centerpiece of the collection at Tlaxcala Art Museum.

By Instituto Tlaxcalteca de la Cultura

Retrato de Miguel N Lira (1927) by Frida KahloInstituto Tlaxcalteca de la Cultura

Frida painted this portrait of the poet Miguel N. Lira (a fellow member of the "Los Cachuchas" political group and a close friend of hers) at his request. The artist herself was not too pleased with the painting, though the poet liked it very much.

Kahlo appears to have taken the image of her friend from a photograph.

This is the only piece of hers that records the precise date it was painted: 1927.

The pinwheel that Lira is holding in his left hand is an allusion to childhood.

The book on his right features an image of a guava and the pronoun "tú" (you), in reference to the titles of his first 2 published books.

The angel may be the archangel Michael (Miguel in Spanish, which was Lira's first name), or it could be a guardian, referencing religious imagery from the poet's early work.

The hobbyhorse and doll may be early incarnations of 2 children's books he would go on to write: "Mi caballito blanco" (My Little White Horse) from 1943 and "La muñeca Pastillita" (A Doll Called Pastillita) from 1942.

The "R" could be from the name of his girlfriend, Rebeca Torres y Ortega, who later became his wife. If so, perhaps the shape resembling a tower ("torre" in Spanish) completes this meaning.

The lyre ("lira" in Spanish) is a direct nod to his surname, as well as his work as a poet.

The floating head may represent a "memento mori" (a reminder of mortality) or a Day of the Dead skull.

The bell and the onomatopoeic "TAAAAAAAAANN" are a local reference. It is worth pointing out that his first book, "Tú" (1925), was dedicated "To 'María de Guadalupe,' the bell at the Sanctuary of Ocotlán, whose voice I have never stopped hearing."

The onomatopoeia, the letter "R," and the name Miguel are all part of the aesthetic experiments of Dadaism and Cubism in that period.

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