Fulang-Chang and I, 1937 Frida Kahlo

Fulang-Chang and I 1937 Frida Kahlo

Of Kahlo’s approximately 150 paintings, at least a third contain her pets. Kahlo saw his animals as an extension of his own being, and he had quite a few. Along with a parrot, a fawn, an eagle, some parakeets, macaws, chickens, sparrows, and a Mexican xoloitzcuintle (an ancient breed of hairless dog), he also had spider monkeys in the garden of his house, the Casa Azul. .

Art historians maintain that Kahlo referred to the monkeys as a symbol of the children he could never have. He especially liked the strange look of the monkey, with its long skinny legs, as they reminded him of her and her right leg. Kahlo’s right leg was thinner than her left, damaged when she suffered from polio as a child, and would eventually have to be amputated. Fulang-Chang and I is Kahlo’s first self-portrait in which the spider monkey appears, but many more would follow. In Mexican mythology the monkey is a symbol of lust. In Kahlo’s paintings they are depicted as tender and kind, sometimes with their arms around Kahlo’s neck. She wears a bow in her hair that also goes around the monkey, as if they are connected. Kahlo was very proud of this painting and gave it to her good friend Mary Schapiro Sklar, along with a mirror in a similar frame. She told Sklar that the painting and the mirror had to be hung side by side so that Sklar would always see herself next to Frida.

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