Self-portrait of a very young Frida Kahlo resurfaces, goes to auction at Sotheby's

One of Frida Kahlo’s most obscure self-portraits has been unearthed and will be on the Sotheby’s auction block, available to the highest bidder on Nov. 22.

The Mexican icon and painter was just 22 years old when she painted the portrait in 1929. It will be part of Sotheby's Latin America: Modern Art and Contemporary sale on Nov. 22 and 23.  

The painting’s pre-sale estimate is $1.5 million to $2 million.

“This work being so early makes it interesting because it’s a kind of prototype of her career and development of her self-portraits,” Axel Stein, Sotheby’s Head of Latin American Art told Fox News Latino.

“It’s an exercise when we take this piece into the context of her oeuvre, and you look at the color and the expression, the frontal pose, it’s a very honest look on the world the way she did in her following portraits,” Stein says.

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Titled “Niña con Collar” (Girl with Necklace), the unsigned oil painting is one of approximately 140 paintings known by Kahlo.

It shows the young artist at perhaps age 13 or 14, accessorized in gold hoops, a pre-Columbian jade necklace, and her face offering a “direct stare from under her spreading monobrow and the rigid symmetry of a frontal pose,” Stein said in a Sotheby’s statement.

Kahlo's husband, artist and muralist Diego Rivera, gave the work to her personal assistant in 1955, the year after she died at age 47.

Until it surfaced over the summer, the only record of the portrait had been a black-and-white photo, taken by Mexican photographer, Lola Álvarez Bravo, some time in the 1940s.

Bravo famously documented the pain the artist suffered after she was in a bus accident and in her relationship with Rivera.

The painting is about 22 inches by 18 inches, it was painted before Kahlo and Rivera were married.

“The same person who got it [the portrait] from Diego, worked with Frida. Today, she's 95-years-old. We believe it came to a point, she’d been enjoying the painting and it occurred to her and her family to part with it. She was very close to Frida, and helped her in the studio in the last years of her life,” Stein told FNL.

The owner hung the portrait in a darkened bedroom in Sunnyvale, California, for 60 years; thanks to her art expertise, she knew the painting should be away from light.

Stein told Reuters the painting has been expertly preserved.  

"Because she only painted less than 140 paintings, each one is like a window into her world," Stein says. 

In a Christie's auction in May, a 1939 painting by Kahlo sold for $8 million, and Sotheby's has privately sold individual Kahlo works for more than $15 million each, Dan Abernethy, an auction house spokesman told Reuters. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Rebekah Sager is a writer and editor for She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager.