The still-life genre might appear an unlikely vessel for nationalist sentiment, yet in Kahlo’s hands, the fruits of the earth become emblematic of pride in her country. The choice of locally grown produce such as prickly pears, corn cobs and pitahayas is a deliberate political stance.
For Kahlo still-life was also a type of indirect self-portraiture, and a number of the themes that run throughout her work are found here. The ripe forms, splitting to reveal fleshy interiors, suggest body parts, and carry an undercurrent of eroticism. Fecundity is linked to death in Fruits of the Earth, 1938. Fresh corn cobs contrast with a dried-up husk, recalling the cycles of life. The theme of mortality is even more explicit in the painting Pitahayas, 1938, with the inclusion of a toy skeleton.
The circular flower painting in this room has a particular connection to Kahlo’s life. Ironically, she made it for the American actress Paulette Goddard, with whom Rivera is believed to have had an affair. Rivera’s philandering was a contributing factor to the couple’s divorce in 1939, though Kahlo herself had a number of extra-marital liaisons.