This Man Is Determined to Find Frida Kahlo Painting That “Disappeared Into Thin Air” 60 Years Ago

Lead Photo: Collage by Alan López for Remezcla
Collage by Alan López for Remezcla
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In one of her paintings, Frida Kahlo sits in a stagelike scene amidst several figures – including two children, her deer Granizo, and a Nayarit figure – at a table splattered with blood, which pools at the hem of her Tehuana skirt. Titled La mesa herida, the oil painting is among Frida’s most famous works – and one enshrouded in mystery. The Mexican artist worked on the piece between 1939 and the beginning of 1940, coinciding with her divorce from Diego Rivera. She reportedly rushed to finish the work so she could meet the January 17 deadline for the opening of the International Exhibition of Surrealism in Mexico City. From there, the painting made its way through the United States and Europe, but it inexplicably disappeared on route to an exhibition in Moscow in 1955. The whereabouts of La mesa herida have eluded scholars and researchers for more than 60 years, but now one man feels confident that he’ll track down the piece in the next few years.

Raúl Cano Monroy – an investigator who organized an exhibition about Diego and Frida at their home, La Casa Azul – believes he’s detected new clues about the piece’s location after looking through the archive of the National Front of Plastic Arts. “I think in five years my investigation will bear fruit,” he told Milenio, according to The Art Newspaper. He couldn’t provide any more information about his plans, but if he is successful, he’ll retrieve Frida’s largest painting, measuring at about 47.24 inches by 94.49 inches. The piece – which makes a statement on loneliness, grief, indigeneity, and Mexicandidad – is valued at more than $20 million.

“It’s important because it’s not only a self-portrait, it’s a statement,” said Helga Prignitz-Poda, a curator and art historian. “… It’s as if it disappeared into thin air. The astonishing thing is that it’s the biggest and the heaviest [painting by Kahlo], so it’s really mysterious how it could disappear.”