Study for Figure of Knowledge in the Ministry of Health Mural (Cristina Kahlo)

These two kneeling nudes are studies for the figure of ‘Knowledge’ in the mural entitled Health and Life, which consisted of six large female nude figures symbolizing Purity, Strength, Knowledge, Life, Moderation and Health. The model for these drawings was Cristina Kahlo, Frida’s sister and Rivera’s future sister-in-law. In the preliminary sketch, she holds up her right hand and is seated upright. For the final study, the figure is more

relaxed, her thoughts absorbed in the blossom she now holds in her left hand. Hayden Herrera describes Rivera’s depiction of Cristina in the mural as “the essence of voluptuous sexuality, a plump Eve holding a flower, while a seductive serpent whispers in her ear.”

Although Frida suggested that Cristina model for Rivera, in doing so she may have inadvertently planted the seed for one of the most painful episodes of her life. Upon returning from the United States in 1934, Rivera initiated a love affair with Cristina, which left Frida feeling as if she had been “murdered by life,” and which permanently changed the nature of her relationship with Rivera. (Hayden Herrera, Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo, 1983, pp. 181-2)