Diego Rivera’s Nude Portrait of C.Z. Guest Stars on ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’

Diego Rivera’s Nude Portrait of C.Z. Guest Stars on ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’

Diego Rivera is known for a multitude of paintings: vast murals that pay homage to the struggle of the proletariat, canvases that alluded to events and people from Mexican history, even still lifes that flirt with the Cubist style coming out of France during the early 20th century.

But a lesser known work by him—a salacious painting of a nude New York socialite—ended up taking the spotlight on Thursday’s episode of the FX TV series Feud: Capote vs. The Swans (streaming on Hulu), which traces the manipulative friendships between the writer Truman Capote and the moneyed Manhattanites in his circle.

One of those Manhattanites was C.Z. Guest, a debutante turned actress who married Winston Frederick Churchill Guest. Played by Chloë Sevigny in Feud, Guest is remembered for having remained friends with Capote much longer than the other women he claimed to adore.

When it comes to art history, Guest played a bit part, posing for famed artists of her era. The Surrealist Salvador Dalí painted her in one of his dreamy landscapes, coolly seated before galloping equines—an allusion to Guest’s own love for horseback riding and her husband’s career as an international polo champion. Pop artist Andy Warhol photographed Guest playing out that passion, seated atop one of her horses.

But it is a 1945 Rivera painting of Guest that became the most well-known—and ended up sealing her fame.

That painting, titled In vinum veritas, features Guest reclining in the buff, her body fully on display for the viewer. (Images of the work are hard to come by, but one appears in a Christie’s press release from 2015.) She lies amid flowers draped across her, and her cheeks are rosy. If its Latin title, which translates to “In wine, there is truth,” is to be heeded, she may already be drunk.

In vinum veritas was painted after Guest had already found a following in New York, having appeared in the Broadway show Ziegfeld Follies, and gone to Mexico to raise her profile further. It worked, and the painting became her calling card abroad. The New York Times even mentioned it in her obituary in 2003, and a remembrance published in the Times the following day quotes fashion critic Cathy Horyn: “Pity the poor socialite today. She will never know what it’s like to be painted in the nude by Diego Rivera.”

The nearly-9-foot-long painting initially hung in a Mexico City bar called Ciro’s, located at the Hotel Reforma. But once Guest married in 1947, her husband, a prominent polo player with a sizable family steel fortune, saw fit to remove In vinum veritas from public view.

According to the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, which ran an extensive article on the painting in 2005, Winston Frederick Churchill Guest proceeded to buy the painting. It remained stowed away in private for many years, only to reemerge in 1986, four years after he died. The painting then headed to auction at Sotheby’s, where it was reportedly valued at $1.5 million.

Nineteen years later, the owners of Mexico City’s Avril Gallery saw the work in a Miami home. With the journalist Sondra Schneider, they researched the painting and even put it on view at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach in 2005. The painting reappeared in 2015 at a selling exhibition held by Christie’s.

Still, as Rivera’s works go, this one is a deep cut. But in the lore about Guest, it has occupied a central place. Capote himself wrote of the work, referring to it as “a honey-haired odalisque desnuda.” And Guest even spoke highly of Rivera, noting that he “was very kind, and I became famous.”

The post “Diego Rivera’s Nude Portrait of C.Z. Guest Stars on ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’” by Alex Greenberger was published on 02/23/2024 by www.artnews.com