The Broken Column


Oil on canvas
mounted on masonite
17″ x 13″
Collection of Dolores Olmedo Patiño
Mexico City, Mexico

Óleo sobre lienzo
montado sobre fibra dura

43 x 33 cm.

Colección de Dolores Olmedo Patiño
Ciudad de México, México

This self-portrait is in sharp contrast to Frida’s other self-portraits in that she is all alone… no monkeys, no cats, no parrots, and no background of protective leaves and plants. Instead, Frida stands all alone crying on a vast baron plain beneath a stormy sky. Perhaps it’s her way of expressing that she must deal with her physical and emotional pain on her own.

In 1944 when Frida painted this self-portrait, her health had deteriorated to the point where she had to wear a steel corset for five months. She described the experience as a “punishment“. The straps of the corset seem to be all that is holding the artist’s broken body together and upright. An Ionic column, broken in several places, symbolizes her damaged spine. The yawning cleft in her body is repeated in the furrows of the bleak fissured landscape. An even more powerful symbol of her pain are the nails piercing her face and body. The nails represent the physical pain she has endured since her accident. The larger nail piercing her heart represents the emotional pain caused by Diego.

When Frida’s long time friend and art student, Arturo Garcia Bustos, saw the finished painting he was terribly distressed by the message it conveyed. Although the painting is obviously a reflection of her current physical and emotional state at the time, it also carries a message of humor in it. “You must laugh at life…” Frida said. “Look very very closely at my eyes…the pupils are doves of peace. That is my little joke on pain and suffering…”


2013 Ivory Coast Stamp
2013 sello de Costa de Marfil

The haunting image in this painting and the entries in her diary are a testament to the physical and emotional pain that Frida suffered during the last ten years of he life.

Originally Frida painted herself completely nude but then later decided that her total nudity distracted from the central theme and focus of the painting.

In 2013, an image of this painting was featured on a postage stamp from the African nation of the Ivory Coast.

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