Treasures of Frida Kahlo's wardrobe uncovered after 50 years

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The Independent US

Hidden treasures have been found in the home of the iconic Mexican painter Frida Kahlo who died in 1954, including a wardrobe of 180 traditional dresses of the style in her famed self-portraits and earrings said to be a gift from Picasso.

Hidden treasures have been found in the home of the iconic Mexican painter Frida Kahlo who died in 1954, including a wardrobe of 180 traditional dresses of the style in her famed self-portraits and earrings said to be a gift from Picasso.

A two-year renovation project had just started at the Blue House in the Coyoacan district of Mexico City, now a museum dedicated to Kahlo's life and art, when workers stumbled on the collection in a back room kept closed for many years.

"We were all surprised by the dimensions of this treasure," said Ignacio Custodia, an administrator of the museum, one of the most popular cultural sites in Mexico.

The discovery will cast new light on the extraordinary life of Kahlo, who suffered terrible pain from a tram accident when she was just 18 and who is almost as famous for her tumultuous marriage to the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera as for her often troubling art.

Their turbulent years together, marred by his serial infidelities, including Kahlo's sister Christina, and her affairs with women and with Leon Trotsky, the exiled Communist intellectual, were depicted in the 2002 film Frida , with Salma Hayek as Kahlo and Alfred Molina as Rivera.

Many of the garments found in the Blue House, called because of its exterior colour, are from the Oaxaca region of Mexico. Kahlo was inspired by the artistic traditions of its Tehuantepec Indians, a strongly matriarchal society whose women still make dresses in pre-Hispanic Zapotec styles.

The find includes shawls, shoes and indigenous jewellery as well as the Picasso earrings. Also found were images of the artist taken by her photographer father, a Hungarian immigrant. He gave refuge to Trotsky in Mexico in 1937 after Stalin fell out with the founder of the Red Army and exiled him to Turkey in 1929.

The often tortured images in Kahlo's paintings seem to reflect the torments of her own life, in her marriage - they were divorced and remarried - and her long battle with physical disability. She was born with polio, then the tram accident severed her spine. She spent long periods bed-ridden and had a leg amputated a year before her death.

When her husband won commissions in the United States, she travelled with him first to San Francisco. "I don't like the gringos," she said. "They're very boring, and they've all got faces like unbaked rolls." She was happier in New York, where Diego painted murals in the Rockefeller complex. She had one miscarriage and no children.

Prices of Kahlo works have soared and those who avidly collect them include Madonna. The artist, born in 1907, dismissed critics who called her surrealist, inspired by dreams or nightmares. "I never painted dreams," she said. "I paint my own reality."

Rivera decreed the Blue House should become a museum to Kahlo and anything inside it should remain there. The curators plan an exhibition of their finds in a year.

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