Cabeza de muchacha signed 'Diego Rivera' (lower left) charcoal and sanguine heightened with white on vellum 13 7/8 x 11in. (35.2 x 28cm)
Just as diverse in themes as in artists, the early twentieth-century in Mexico was a time that produced imagery uniquely didactic to the social, radical, and political period. The indigenous population of Mexico had time and time again been the backdrop of this repeated reinvention of the nation-state, and it is ever so present within Mexico's aesthetic discourse. Artists like Diego Rivera sought to include their own expression of the nationalist ideology indigenismo, where the presence of the indigenous population within Mexico's artistic accord strove to vindicate and assert their importance within the context of a new modern Mexican society.
In Cabeza de muchacha, Rivera's young female subject sits erect in staunch profile. Her eyes stare intensely forward, her features are heavily outlined and her flesh solidly rendered. Characteristic of Rivera's style, his muchacha is bold, rounded and yet contained. She wears indigenous garb while her thick hair rests gently down her back in a solitary braid. Portrayed as a native to Mexico, she is also depicted as a young woman in transition. Her bust line is still modest though her mature gaze and strong features suggest the power and motivation of a woman. The maturing girl, powerful in her physical representation and culturally forward thinking in her costume, also exudes a spirit of determination representing the plight of socialism in Mexico.
In Cabeza de muchacha, Rivera elevates a young indigenous girl to a place of portraiture - displaying her profile as regal, poised and pensive. It can be said that Rivera's muchacha employs indigenismo and likens the elevation of a girl to that of the nation's indigenous population.