Diego Rivera leads auction of Latin American art

Painter Diego RiveraA painting by Diego Rivera that Sotheby's catalogs as one of the most important of the Mexican artist that has been seen in auction in recent years, leads the next sale of Latin American art.


This is "Retrato de la señorita Matilde Palou," an oil on canvas of the Chilean star of Mexican cinema signed in 1951 and last seen in public in 1988, when the same auctioneer sold it for $ 203,000. On Wednesday it would be displayed in its Los Angeles galleries ahead of the May 25 auction in New York, Sotheby's told The Associated Press on an exclusive basis.

"I saw the splendid "Retrato de la señorita Matilde Palou" for the first time some 30 years ago ... and again just a few weeks ago. I was once again struck by its majestic beauty," Axel Stein, director of the department of Sotheby's Latin American art. "It is a wonderful example of the artist at his best and a glorious symbol of Mexican national pride. It is undoubtedly one of the most important works of the artist that appears in auction in recent times.

The estimated selling price for the frame of 203 by 122.3 centimeters (80 by 48 1/8 inches) is between 2 and 3 million dollars. Rivera's record at auction is $3,082,500. The brand was established in 1995 with the sale of "Dance in Tehuantepec" (1928), 200.7 by 163.8 inches (79 by 64.5 inches), also at Sotheby's.

"Retrato de la señorita Matilde Palou" was commissioned to the artist in 1950 by Osceola Heard Davenport, a wealthy widow of a Rio Grande Valley oil tanker in South Texas whose heirs topped him at Sotheby's nearly three decades ago.

The work shows the actress standing, leaning against what looks like a chimney, in a glowing dress covered in Mexican symbolism like flags, coats of arms and jewels.

For this painting the artist made a preliminary drawing in pencil and a sketch in oil on canvas. The drawing, titled "Chiapaneca" and dedicated to "Chapo Linda, Diego Rivera 51", shows the model in exactly the same position as the final work, but without the elaborate sets in the dress, with an additional bracelet and a cigarette in the right hand.

Palou achieved fame by its work in films like "Susana" of Luis Buñuel, of the same year that the portrait of Rivera; "The Pain of the Children" by Miguel Zacarias, 1949, and "El culta dama" by Rogelio A. González, 1957. Married to prominent Mexican actor Miguel Ángel Ferriz, he also worked in New York doing follies for MGM.

Manuela Pulido