Diego Rivera’s amorous encounters with women have provided abundant opportunity for story telling, a good deal of it elaborated and exaggerated by Diego himself. This drawing, Illustration for ‘La Única’ was made by Rivera at the request of his tempestuous second wife, Guadalupe (Lupe) Marín, for the cover of a work of fiction she composed that was published in 1938. The story contained many autobiographical details of her relationship with Diego for whom she was, according to Rivera’s biographer Bertram Wolfe, “model and mistress, source of aesthetic and human satisfaction.” Lupe Marín was left by Rivera with two small children in 1927 when their marriage broke up and he went to Russia. She soon married the young poet, Jorge Cuesta, because “in the midst of all these people who have treated me most vilely, he is the only one from whom I have had kindness.” The scene portrayed here is of Lupe Marín on the right, merged with Cuesta’s first wife, Natalia, on the left. Together they bear the head of Cuesta on a silver platter, probably an allusion to famous beheadings in history, like Judith and Holofernes, Salome and John the Baptist. Although this head looks remarkably like Diego’s, Rivera mentions in his own biography that it is that of Cuesta, who had confessed to Rivera that he was in love with Lupe when they were still together. At the time Diego warned Cuesta that Lupe could be dangerous to men who were not very tough. This prediction unfortunately came true, as Cuesta became mentally ill soon after his marriage to Lupe and castrated both himself and their baby boy. He hanged himself the following year.
Rivera has apparently made a visual pun playing with the book’s title, ‘La Única’, by using a letter ‘e’ for the navel of the two-headed body so that it turns the word ‘Única’ into ‘eunica.’ Lupe later mentioned that Diego’s first plan for the cover was to have himself seated below the silver platter, with enormous horns on his head that would turn into the figures of the two women. Lupe told him that if he did that she would not publish the book. Rivera replied, “Come on, let me have some fun.” In the end he did, though more subtly than at first.
Diego Rivera. Catálogo general de obra de caballete, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico, 1989, no. 1468 (illus. as no. 1465), p. 192
Raquel Tibol, Diego Rivera ilustrador, Mexico, 1986, illus. p. 251
Bertram Wolfe, The Fabulous Life of Diego Rivera, 1963, p. 145 (letter from Lupe regarding Cuesta)