Kahlo, left, and her Barbie likeness. Kahlo, left, and her Barbie likeness.

Judge rules against sale of Mattel’s Frida Kahlo Barbie dolls

The artist's family initiated legal action against toy maker

A judge has barred the sale in Mexico of a Barbie doll depicting influential artist Frida Kahlo, ruling that her family has sole rights to her image, lawyers said Thursday.

The ruling takes effect immediately although toy multinational Mattel, which makes the doll, could appeal the decision.

The company released the Frida doll last month as part of a new Barbie range based on “inspiring women” and has said that it worked with the Panama-based Frida Kahlo Corporation, which says it obtained the right to license the artist’s name and image more than a decade ago.

But some of Kahlo’s relatives claimed that the painter’s image was used without their authorization and initiated legal action against Mattel.

The relatives also criticized the company for lightening Kahlo’s skin tone, feminizing her features and not portraying her distinctive unibrow.

After the ruling was handed down in a Mexico City civil court, the artist’s great-niece told the news agency AFP that she was “thrilled” and that she thought that “justice is finally being done.”

Mara Romero added that the case was not a dispute about the rights to her great-aunt’s name and image, but about who she really was.

“It should have been a much more Mexican doll, with darker skin, a unibrow, not so thin because Frida was not that thin . . . dressed in more Mexican clothing, with Mexican jewelry,” she said.

The judge issued a temporary injunction ordering Mattel and its distributors to stop using the “brand, image and works of Frida Kahlo.”

Family members said that they could launch similar legal action in the United States once a final outcome is reached in Mexico.

“This litigation is in its first stage. We asked the judge to grant certain precautionary measures to protect our right to Frida Kahlo’s intellectual property,” said Pablo Sangri, the family’s lawyer.

In a statement issued yesterday, Mattel said “we followed the correct steps to secure permission and look forward to the matter being resolved in court.”

Frida Kahlo’s image has been widely used on a range of consumer products including nail polish, bags, shoes and coffee mugs, many of which are sanctioned by the artist’s family.

Inspiring women: Mattel's Frida.
Inspiring women: Mattel’s Frida.

The artist, born in the Mexico City neighborhood of Coyoacán in 1907, is considered one of the great painters of the 20th century and is almost certainly the most famous Mexican artist internationally.

She married Mexican muralist Diego Rivera in 1929, four years after she suffered a serious bus accident which left her with debilitating injuries and caused her a lifetime of pain, a common theme in her work.

Mexican actress Salma Hayek starred in a 2002 film about the artist’s life and was highly critical of the use of Frida’s image for a doll, declaring that she “never tried to be or look like anyone else.

“She celebrated her uniqueness. How could they turn her into a Barbie,” she wrote on Instagram.

The home Kahlo shared with Rivera in Coyoacán is now a museum and popular tourist attraction known as La Casa Azul, or the Blue House. Kahlo died in 1954.

Source: AFP (sp)

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