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Woman of the Isthmus Combing Isabel Villaseñor's Hair
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© Colette Urbajtel/Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, SC

Manuel Alvarez Bravo
Mexican, negative 1933, print 1990s
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 5/8 x 7 9/16 in.
2001.43

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Manuel Alvarez Bravo portrayed Isabel Villaseñor, an icon of Mexico's postrevolutionary period, with one foot propped on a step and her head turned up in regal fashion, while a woman combs her long tresses. The striking features of Villaseñor, who was an artist, poet, and songwriter, were idealized as symbols of Mexican feminine intellect and beauty.

In his title, Woman of the Isthmus Combing Isabel's Hair, Alvarez Bravo acknowledged the indigenous woman from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec whose dark features are so different from Villaseñor's, though no less striking. This image is part of an artistic tradition illustrating women's grooming activities.