Frida Kahlo's lost painting " The Wounded Table"

In 1940, the renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo completed one of her magnum opuses, titled 'La Mesa Herida,' meaning 'The Wounded Table.' The last documented sighting of this artwork dates back to 1955 when it was showcased in an exhibition in Warsaw. Since then, there have been intermittent moments of hope, with some individuals claiming to possess the painting.

In June 2019, Mexican authorities made a significant announcement regarding the arrest of a man in the state of Morelos who was apprehended while attempting to sell the painting. Suspicion arose when he sought to have the sales contract notarized. According to the documents, the painting was to be dispatched to a buyer in London in exchange for a Mex$20 million property in Acapulco. Mexican officials raised concerns about the legitimacy of the sale, as the detainee could not physically produce the painting as evidence.

Notably, the sole official image of the painting is a black and white photograph taken by Bernard Silberstein in 1941, a year after Kahlo completed the artwork, featuring the artist alongside 'La Mesa Herida.'

© Edward B. Silberstein/Courtesy of Cincinnati Art Museum/© 2018 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The disappearance of "The Wounded Table," a highly sought-after piece among Frida Kahlo scholars, occurred after the artist generously donated it to the former Soviet Union. Kahlo's creation of this self-portrait unfolded during the transition from late 1939 to the early months of 1940. Notably, in December 1939, Kahlo's divorce from Diego Rivera was finalized, marking a period of profound personal turmoil. The painting, "The Wounded Table, 1940," emerged as an expression of her profound despair and acute loneliness.

Within this artwork, the imagery of blood dripping mirrors the symbolism found in "The Two Fridas," where blood stains her Tehuana skirt. It's significant to note that "The Wounded Table" stands as her only other sizable work, both in physical dimensions and thematic complexity, besides "The Two Fridas." In a letter to Muray, Kahlo described her relentless effort, remarking that she was "working relentlessly" to complete it in time for the January 17 deadline set for the opening of the "International Exhibition of Surrealism." This exhibition featured Kahlo's "The Wounded Table" alongside masterpieces by other eminent Surrealist artists, such as Salvador Dali's "Persistence of Memory" and Rene Magritte's "The Treachery of Images."

In this painting, the table takes on a human form with legs, and its surface bears bleeding marks on a few knots. This table serves as a poignant symbol representing Frida Kahlo's profound sense of a fractured family resulting from her divorce. Encircling the table are several objects, with Frida herself positioned at the center, encompassed by these accompanying items.

To one side, there are the two children of her sister, Cristina, which symbolizes Frida's longing to have her own children. On the other side, a deer, one of her beloved pets, assumes the role of a surrogate child in her life. Adjacent to her sits a Nayarit figure. A towering Judas figure, representing Diego Rivera, occupies a prominent spot and symbolizes betrayal. Reflecting on the divorce, Rivera eventually acknowledged his wrongdoing, expressing, "I simply wanted to be free to pursue any woman who piqued my interest... was I merely a victim of my own insatiable desires?"

These characters are meticulously arranged in a composition reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper."

Inspired by a Nayarit sculpture featuring an embracing couple, which is now housed in the Frida Kahlo Museum, Frida Kahlo extended the arm of the figurine positioned to her left. Perhaps, to underscore her connection to pre-Columbian culture, she seamlessly merged the idol's arm with her own. The clay skeleton, stabilized with its pelvic bone tethered to a chair for support, holds a strand of her long hair in its coiled forearm, creating an intimate link between the two. In fact, all three Mexican artifacts likely represent facets of Frida herself, as the idol possesses peg legs, and both the skeleton and the Judas figure exhibit broken and bloodied right feet.

Frida's incorporation of drapery in this painting employed a technique previously utilized by several Old Masters. It served as a trompe-l'oeil device designed to draw viewers into the composition, highlighting the artifice of the scene and showcasing the artist's remarkable ability to render lifelike drapery suspended before a picture. This technique can be observed in works such as Johannes Vermeer's "The Art of Painting" and Rembrandt's "Danae."

As for "The Wounded Table," its last known exhibition took place in Warsaw in 1955. Subsequently, it vanished, sparking an ongoing international quest to locate this enigmatic artwork.