There’s something creepy and fascinating in the earthly possessions of great artists. We often tend to fantasize about their creations and to put them on a pedestal, but we mustn’t forget they were humans like us, breathing and living in flesh and blood. A strong voyeuristic drive sometimes takes us to visit their homes or their studios, still inhabited with the ghost of them and filled with personal objects. I had a similar feeling when I found out about a project by the Japanese photographer Ishiuchi Miyako. In 2004 he had the honour to photograph personal belongings of Frida Kahlo, which had been hidden in a bathroom of the Blue House in Mexico City. Frida’s husband, Diego Rivera, started placing Frida’s personal effects and clothing there in 1954; he gave instructions that that bathroom should remain closed until 15 years after his death. It remained unopened until 2004, when the Museo Frida Kahlo decided to catalogue the contents of the room. The pictures taken by Miyako are an extraordinary record of an extraordinary life, where pain, illness, desperation, art, love and passion merge.
Two pictures have impressed me the most, because they’re beauty-related. In the first one, two Revlon nail polishes are portrayed.
Seal-Fast was a top coat: according to an ad appearing on the Pittsburg Press in September 1941, it halved drying time, made the enamel more resistant, protected the nails and encouraged longer growth. The second nail polish was part of the Lastron line: Orchids to You was a shade released in 1948, along with matching lipstick and a face powder. I’m not surprised of this find: Frida’s nails were often painted and Revlon was one of the most popular make-up brands at the time.
The second picture filled me with joy! Finally the evidence that Frida actually wore one of the perfumes always quoted in forums and websites – Emir by Dana.
These beautiful ads emphasize the exotic quality of this perfume. Created by the master perfumer Jean Carles and launched in 1936, it was an oriental leather scent with an incense base. According to the Basenotes user Meliscents, it was a mix of Opium and Ivory soap, “that touch of clean keeps it from being too dark & heavy”. The description perfectly matches Frida’s taste.