Lot 45
  • 45

Frida Kahlo (1910-1954)

700,000 - 900,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Frida Kahlo
  • Portrait of Miriam Penansky
  • signed and dated AGOSTO 1929 upper left
  • oil on canvas
  • 24 by 18 in.
  • 60 by 47 cm


Commissioned by Salomon Hale, Mexico
Miriam Penansky, Chicago
Gift of the above to the previous owner
Thence by descent
Private Collection, Chicago 


Rome, Scuderie del Quirinale, Frida Kahlo, March 20 – August 31, 2014, p. 26, illustrated in color


Salomon Grimberg, Jane C. H. Jacob, and Laurent Sozzani, “Two Frida Kahlo Portraits: One Found, One Confirmed”, IFAR Journal, vol. 14, no. 3, 2013, pp. 22-30, illustrated in color 


This work is still stretched on its original stretcher. The paint layer is stable. It shows very slight cracking throughout. Under ultraviolet light it is hard to identify any retouches, but there are 2 or 3 spots of retouch in the upper left – one above and to the right of the signature. The condition overall is good. The painting has been carefully cleaned and no further restoration is recommended. (This condition report has been provided courtesy of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.)
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Miriam Penansky, the subject in this recently discovered portrait by Frida Kahlo, was the youngest child of Polish immigrants Evan Ginzburg and Charles Penansky. Born in Chicago in 1908, Miriam traveled to Mexico City in 1929 where she lived with her sister and brother in law, modern art collector Salomon Hale. As a prominent member of the Jewish community in Mexico City, it was Hale who introduced Miriam to Frida Kahlo. The two young women quickly developed an intimate friendship, now immortalized in this recently discovered painting. Once finished, Kahlo photographed the work and inscribed on the back the name "Salomón Hale." This photograph, filed in her personal photographic archive, would later become the key to confirming its existance.

Portrait of Miriam Penansky is one of Frida Kahlo’s earliest attempts at portraiture, the genre she would come to master as one of Mexico’s most celebrated artists. Painted in 1929, the seminal year in which she married Diego Rivera and joined the Communist party, Portrait of Miriam Penansky encapsulates the beginnings of Kahlo’s idiosyncratic style. Although she had only been painting for four years, one can already perceive the deeply introspective quality of her work. Equally present are the lessons learned from Mexican Muralism with its characteristic contours and bright colors —influences no doubt internalized through her relationship with Rivera. Once married, Kahlo’s style continued to evolve. According to her, moving to Coyoacán had “a huge influence as she began making paintings with backgrounds and Mexican things in them.” (1) While she dedicated much of this time to accompanying Rivera on numerous commisions, she managed to complete two other important canvases in 1929: Time Flies and Woman in White, another recently discovered composition.

While Kahlo was certainly an innovative artist, her art is not without pictorial sources. It is well known that Kahlo and Rivera shared an interest in Pre-Columbian sculpture and Mexican folk art. Less well-known however are the rich influences that nineteenth-century Mexican portraiture and Spanish colonial painting had in her early work. Kahlo’s interest in retablo painting, particularly the ex-voto tradition of producing artworks as offerings or give thanks for miracles performed, is evident throughout her work. Another highly popular painting tradition in nineteenth-century Mexico was the very genre of portraiture, as demonstrated by the careers of artists such as José Maria Estrada (1811-62) and Hermenegildo Bustos (1832-1907). The portraiture of Bustos, in particular, was made to commemorate special occasions, and they possess a frankness and immediacy that provide an air of authenticity. Neither the sitters nor the artist appear pretentious, and it is this spirit and tradition that guide Kahlo in her portraits from 1930 to 1939. 

Frida Kahlo, Song of Herself, Salomon Grimberg, New York, 2008, p. 75.