A Few Small Nips (Passionately in Love) – A Detailed Analysis

Title: A Few Small Nips (Unos Cuantos Piquetitos in Spanish, also known as Passionately in Love)

Author: Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón (Born, Mexico, July 13, 1907 – Died, Mexico, July 2, 1954)

Date: 1935

Genre: Portrait

Movement: Naïve art

Technique: Oil painting

Support: Metal

Dimension: 19.09 × 14.96 in. (48,5 x 38 cm)

Location: Dolores Olmedo Collection, Mexico City, Mexico

Some write their experiences and feelings, and this becomes a novel. Some compose, and this emerges as a piece of music! She unburdened herself with her colors and brushes, and it became an art!

Today, we will examine Frida Kahlo’s one of the most striking, A Few Small Nips (Passionately in Love), hanging in Museo Dolores Olmedo to reveal her great pain within this work.

Frida Kahlo, A Few Small Nips (Passionately in Love), 1935, Oil on canvas.

Mexican serial self-portraitist Frida Kahlo took her inspiration from not only her life but also Surrealism, ancient Aztec culture, popular Mexican folklore, eastern philosophy, and here her influence token from a piece of heartbroken news.

A man murdered his wife in a drunken rage, stabbing her several times as a result of discovering her to be unfaithful. The man professed he only gave her “a few small nips” in court.

The gruesome painting, A Few Small Nips (Passionately in Love) shows the naked woman on a bed bleeding from numerous stab wounds while the killer stands over her. Some thought Kahlo saw herself in the brutalized woman. She, too, was suffering from the “little nips” that Rivera had been delivering for years by his bad behavior. Rivera freely admitted that he treated women horribly. In his autobiography, he wrote:

If I loved a woman, the more I loved her, the more I wanted to hurt her. Frida was only the most obvious victim of this disgusting trait.

Diego Rivera


Before diving into all the technical details, I would like to provide fresh insight into Frida’s life to understand the painting adequately. 

Frida developed poliomyelitis at six, which caused her right leg to be thinner than her left leg. Later in her life, a horrific trolley accident cut short Frida’s plans on September 27, 1925. It was one of those flukes of fate that changed a life forever. An out-of-control trolley hit the bus she was riding. She nearly died that day.

Frida KahloEx voto, 1943, Oil on metal.

The scene of the accident was horrifying. The iron rod stabbed through her hip and emerged through her vagina, damaging her uterus and causing her incapable of bearing children. (Later, Frida Kahlo told the doctor the handrail had taken her virginity). Her wounds included a broken spine, collarbone, two broken ribs, and a shattered pelvis; her right leg had eleven fractures, and her right foot was dislocated and crushed. Which basically means a lifetime of suffering and pain.

Meeting Her Great Pain

Every artist needs approval, so she decided to ask the one artist she knew, a well-known muralist Diego Rivera. She said to him;

“Look, I didn’t come to flirt with you or anything; even though you are a womanizer, I came to show you my painting. If it interests you, tell me so; if it doesn’t interest you, tell me that too, so I can get to work on something else to help my parents.”

Frida Kahlo

Rivera said he liked her work, especially the self-portrait Frida showed him. The other three, he told her, were too much influenced by other artists. Therefore, Diego asked her to paint another picture, and he would come to her visit. So Diego did, and he told Frida she was talented. The rest was inevitable. Soon the two started to see each other passionately. Then, Diego proposed marriage, and Kahlo accepted. And on August 21, 1929, Frida Kahlo, age 22, married Diego Rivera, 42. The next few years were happy, though. Their relationship contained passion, devotion, jealousy, anger, and betrayal.

Frida KahloFrieda and Diego Rivera, 1931, Oil on canvas.

The other pain in her life, Diego Rivera’s constant infidelities, tormented Kahlo. Even though Rivera said; “Frida became the most important thing in my life.” he did not always show his love by his behavior, unfortunately. It was terrible enough Rivera’s messy relationships with strangers, but…

When Diego lost American mural commissions, he returned to his murals at the National Palace in Mexico City. At the same time, he began making sketches of Frida’s younger sister, Christina. One thing led to another, and then he had an affair with Frida’s own younger sister. Frida was at first crushed and then enraged. The two people closest to Frida betrayed her.

“There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.”

Frida Kahlo


Frida Kahlo didn’t much work in 1934, she was at dry period. Later, Kahlo was devastated to learn that Rivera was having an affair with her younger sister, Cristina. Rivera had used Cristina as a model for nudes in some of his murals and the relationship apparently developed from there. A Few Small Nips was Kahlo’s first painting after that dry period and it was possible to the reaction of that affair. Frida represents her sorrow and bitterness in this painting. However, her pain was far more significant to depict; as a result of this, she launched it by showing the other woman’s misfortune.

In A Few Small Nips (Passionately in Love), Kahlo’s subject matter comes from one newspaper. The news was about one woman who had been stabbed to death by her boyfriend after learning her to be unfaithful. It was entitled A Few Little Nips because when the murderer defended his actions before the judge he said, “But all I did was give her a few small nips!”

A Few Small Nips (Unos Cuantos Piquetitos) was first introduced to the public at the solo exhibition of Frida Kahlo in New York in 1938. Besides, it was titled Passionately in Love.


A Few Small Nips symbolizes Kahlo’s anguish from the affair between Diego and Cristina, her younger sister. As we mentioned before, Kahlo’s subject matter comes from one newspaper that wrote about an unfaithful woman murdered in the act of jealousy. The violent act makes a symbolic reference to Frida’s mental condition and her emotional injuries and also.

The Movement of A Few Small Nips

Frida Kahlo employed naïve art in A Few Small Nips. However, some aspects are influenced by Surrealism, such as a scroll being held up by a white dove and a black swallow. In her other works, Surrealism found much as well. Although even André Breton himself attempted to classify Kahlo as a surrealist, Kahlo disagreed, saying, “I never painted my dreams. I painted my own reality.”

The Technique of A Few Small Nips

A Few Small Nips’s technique is oil on metal. In the painting, the brutal scene is highlighted with diagonal viewpoints. The neat pink wall and blue wainscoting contrast with the rest of the blood-bespattered surroundings.

Frida managed to make the A Few Small Nips painting especially realistic and creepy, particularly with the blood-stained frame which let viewers become eye-witness to the unfortunate event. And when the work was completed, the artist added one more final touch! Kahlo stabbed and damaged the frame with the knife; every knife mark was a reminder of the pain Diego imposed on her with Rivera’s affairs.

What Can You See in A Few Small Nips?

A Few Small Nips depicts a dead woman lying naked on a bed. To her right is a man standing over. Knife wounds surround the woman’s body. Blood spills onto the bed and floor from her injuries and even onto the frame of the painting. The white dove and the black swallow found a place in the upper part of the painting. The scroll that they hold has become the title of the painting, “Unos Cuantos Piquetitos (A few small nips)”.

What Does A Few Small Nips (Passionately in Love) Symbolize?

1. The Woman and Her Murderer

A naked, bleeding woman with her eyes half-opened and a thin stream of blood flowing from her mouth represent Frida Kahlo. Her murderer stands calmly beside the bed, holding the knife in his hand referring to Diego Rivera. And The woman symbolizes Kahlo’s heartache and resentment due to her husband’s affair with her younger sister Cristina. In addition, some thought the painting might also suggest the gender inequalities within Mexican society.

2. White Dove and The Black Swallow

The white dove and the black swallow symbolize brighter and darker aspects of love. The black swallow on the opposite side of the banner from the dove also frames another level of allegory. Suppose the dove is the symbol of Kahlo’s hope, and undoubtedly it resides on the part of the painting bearing the woman’s dead body. In that case, the blackbird that holds the banner on the man’s side of the painting could represent descent or lack of hope.

3. Frame & Blood

Afterward, when she was done painting, she stabbed the frame multiple times as a result of her frustration. Blood and frame suggest that the pain is unbearable, so it burst out onto painting.

All was said by me, yet, the one more thing left to be told by Frida Kahlo…

“I painted my own reality.”

Frida Kahlo
Before letting you go, I have a few questions for you:
What do you feel when you look at this painting? 
What title would you give this painting?

You can share your answers with us in the comments:)

To learn more about Frida Kahlo and her works, I recommend to you the book “Frida Kahlo: The Paintings” by Hayden Herrera.

Wanna continue to read more about Frida Kahlo’s artworks? Check out Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbirdhere.

Until next time, stay with art…

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