Iconic 20th-century artist Frida Kahlo has one of the best-known faces on the planet, but the world at large has never heard the Mexican painter’s voice – until, possibly, now.
Kahlo, who is instantly recognizable with her convention-defying unibrow, spent her life as a painter in the daunting artistic shadow of her muralist husband Diego Rivera.
While there are many silent films of her, her voice seemed doomed to oblivion given there are no known recordings of her.
Researchers at Mexico’s National Sound Library have this week released a 90-second audio clip that apparently captures the artist’s voice.
The recording was uncovered in the private collection of the late legendary Mexican radio host Alvaro ‘The Bachelor’ Galvez y Fuentes.
Library officials say it would be the first record of the Mexican artist’s voice if confirmed.
The tape apparently captures Frida as she was reciting fragments of ‘Portrait of Diego’ – a text she wrote in 1949 about her painter husband Diego Rivera.
The audio clip is from a 1950s pilot episode of the Mexican radio program The Bachelor.
Kahlo is not directly identified by the narrator but her voice is introduced as ‘she who no longer exists’.
‘He is a gigantic, immense child, with a friendly face and a sad gaze,’ the woman’s voice says after an introductory trickle of guitar.
‘His high, dark, extremely intelligent and big eyes rarely hold still. They almost come out of their sockets because of their swollen and protuberant eyelids – like a toad’s. They allow his gaze to take in a much wider visual field, as if they were built especially for a painter of large spaces and crowds.’
Library officials estimate that the program was released in 1955 or 1956 – a year or two after Kahlo died.
Experts are now analyzing it in hopes of determining with certainty whether it is Kahlo.
Investigations will involve sound library officials, engineers, audio experts and even still-living sources.
Pável Granados, director of the National Sound Library, said Wednesday in announcing the discovery of the recording that Kahlo’s voice has been one of the most sought after voices within the library’s archive, which contains 600,000 files.
He said researchers will try to confirm that the voice belongs to Kahlo by going through 1,300 more tapes from ‘The Bachelor.’
‘Frida’s voice has always been a great enigma, a never-ending search,’ Granados said. ‘Until now, there had never been a recording of Frida Kahlo.’
The Mexican government announced the discovery with caution, saying that studies suggest the recording is the voice of Kahlo, but acknowledging they were not able to confirm it.
‘It’s a finding that has many elements that can be identified as the probable voice of Frida Kahlo, but it isn’t 100 percent certain,’ said Secretary of Culture Alejandra Frausto.
The voice is notable for its light and smooth tone, which contradicts previously held assumptions of the artist.
But it does seem to match French photographer Gisele Freund’s description of Kahlo’s voice: ‘Frida smokes, laughs, speaks with a warm and melodious voice,’ she once wrote.
Kahlo, whose spent long periods bed-ridden after a traffic accident in her youth, was the creator of some 200 paintings, sketches and drawings – mainly self-portraits – in which she transformed her misfortune into works of bold color and emblematic strength.
She attained international fame after her death in 1954 and after the 1970s rose as a feminist icon.