This portrait of Nahui Olín belongs to a series of photographs that Weston referred to as "heroic heads." Sitters were chosen from among the circle of intellectual friends with whom he and his companion, Tina Modotti, associated during his years in Mexico. Here, the sitter is Carmen Mondragón (1896-1978), a Mexican poet and painter who grew up in Paris and who, upon her return to Mexico, took an Indian name meaning "four movements of the sun." Nahui Olín posed for Weston in November 1923, and the portrait was exhibited in his second show at the Aztec Land Gallery in Mexico City the following year. In his "Daybooks," Weston recorded that Nahui Olín was annoyed by the revealing nature of the portrait; he himself considered it, together with others from the same sitting, to be among the best pictures he had made in Mexico. It proved to be one of the most popular images in the exhibition and probably inspired these lines in a prose poem review by Francisco Monterde García Icazbalceta: ". . . cruelly, [Weston] prefers to guillotine heads in the noon sun: unreal necks and martyred eyes in harsh, insolent light." Flattering or not (and flattery would not have been Weston's concern), the image is a powerful expression of the photographer's piercing eye, a confrontational face-off between two equally strong personalities.
Inscription: Signed and inscribed in pencil on mount, recto BR: "Edward Weston // Mexico 1924"; BL: "-Nahui Olin-"; inscribed in pencil on mount, verso BR: "Ph 79.592"; BL: "5/1/80 4/22/81 3/22/82"
Jake Zeitlin, Los Angeles; David Zeitlin, Los Angeles; [Mark Kelman]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, October 16, 1979
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "From the Gilman Collection: Photographs Preserved in Ink," November 15, 1984–February 26, 1985.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," May 25, 1993–July 4, 1993.
Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," August 7, 1993–October 2, 1993.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," June 19, 1994–September 11, 1994.
Maddow, Ben. Edward Weston: Fifty Years. 1st ed. Millerton, N.Y.: Aperture, 1973. p. 102.
Apraxine, Pierre. Photographs from the Collection of the Gilman Paper Company. Reeds Springs, Mo.: White Oak Press, 1985. pl. 173.
Conger, Amy. Edward Weston: Photographs from the Collection of the Center for Creative Photography. Tucson: Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, 1992. fig. 107/1923.
Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. p. 354.