Lot 126
  • 126

Diego Rivera (1886-1957)

300,000 - 400,000 USD
346,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Diego Rivera
  • El Balcón
  • signed and dated 21 lower right
  • oil on canvas
  • 32 1/4 by 25 3/4 in.
  • 82 by 65.4 cm


Roberto Montenegro, Mexico City
Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., New York
The Estate of Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York
Sale: Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, 19th and 20th Century Latin American Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, and Prints, November 6, 1980, lot 70, illustrated in color


New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Diego Rivera, December 22, 1931 - January 27, 1932, no. 19, illustrated
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Museum of Art, Diego Rivera Exhibition, 1932
Mexico City, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Diego Rivera: 50 años de su labor artística, 1951, no. 225, illustrated
Detroit Institute of Arts, February 10, 1986-April 27, 1986; Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, June 2, 1986-August 10, 1986; Mexico City, Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, September 29, 1986-January 4, 1987; Madrid, Salas Pablo Ruiz Picasso, February 17, 1987-April 26, 1987; West Berlin, Staatliche Kunsthalle Berlin, Summer 1987; Diego Rivera: A Retrospective, p.54, illustrated in color


Bertram D. Wolfe, Portrait of Mexico, New York, 1937, no. 81, illustrated
Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Diego Rivera: Catálogo general de obra de caballete, Mexico, 1989, no. 436, p. 63, illustrated

Catalogue Note

After nearly 14 years abroad, famed Mexican painter Diego Rivera joined the leadership of José Vasconcelos, then Minister of Education, to create murals in public buildings at the service of a modern Mexico. Rivera executed his first mural in the Simón Bolívar amphitheater of the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, the headquarters of the national preparatory school. As expected, The Creation, Rivera’s first mural, presented a metaphysical theme; a composition imbued in the formal language of the avant-garde that Rivera had been practicing since 1911 as an active part of the Cubist movement in Paris. Despite the success of the mural, Vasconcelos believed that Rivera needed to reconcile with his Mexican roots and arranged for him a series of trips to the isthmus of Tehuantepec and the Yucatan peninsula. The experience would mark Rivera in the most fortunate way for it was here where he discovered the sensual beauty of Mexico and surrendered fully to capture the mystery that permeated the serene existence of everyday life.

Using a fully modern language of synthetic forms of Cubist conception, Rivera immersed himself in the daily leisure of the Mexican people, discovering along the way the perennial dignity that reminded him of the purity embedded in their pre-Columbian indigenous heritage. It is this feeling of pride that Rivera captured in El Balcón, an intimate scene of two Yucatecan women and a young infant that shelter themselves from the unforgiving sun of the Mexican tropics looking out onto a balcony to receive the soft breeze that comforts them. Avoiding the picturesque, Rivera has reduced the scene to a few constructive elements masterfully representing architectural elements to internally frame the composition.  It is not surprising that the modernity and the Mexican essence of El Balcón was perfectly understood by fellow painter and muralist Roberto Montenegro – a colleague of Rivera who traveled with him in November 1921 to visit the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá and Uxmal—who in turn was a deep admirer of folk art and vernacular painting from Mexico and owned the present painting at least until 1932.

An authentic expression of Mexican modernism, El Balcón was selected by French Flynn Paine to participate in the first major retrospective of Diego Rivera in the United States, the exhibition of 1931 at the Museum of Modern Art of New York (MoMA) and then in the great national homage to Rivera in Mexico in 1948 at the Palace of Fine Arts where it was noted as belonging to the collection of Nelson A. Rockefeller. A deep admirer of pre-Hispanic sculptures and whose passion for Mexican art he inherited from his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, Nelson Rockefeller befriended the young artist ultimately becoming one of his principal patrons in the 1930s. 

Professor Luis-Martín Lozano, 2015.