Vallarta Living | Art Talk | February 2007
|Model for Diana Monument Revealed|
Mexico City - The most iconic sculpture of this capital after the "Independence Angel" on Reforma Avenue is one of the naked goddess Diana hunting over the same main thoroughfare, and for nearly 65 years, the model who posed for it remained a mystery.
|Diana the Huntress|
|The monument now on Reforma Avenue in Mexico City is a copy made to prevent further damage to the original.|
Helvia Martínez Verdayes kept the fact that she was the model who inspired "Diana the Huntress" a secret for most of her life for fear that she would lose her job, telling Efe that she accepted the artist´s invitation to pose for the work out of vanity.
"That was a very different time and I thought that if the truth came out I would lose a very important position. My family always used to tell me that I was ugly, but the truth is that I decided to do it and lost my fear due to vanity," the 80-year-old Martínez Verdayes said.
She acknowledged that the ultraconservative segment of Mexican society was scandalized over the sculpture of Diana the Huntress perched in all her natural splendor with bow drawn above a fountain on the city´s main drag.
Today, 65 years later, Martínez Verdayes said she had never imagined she would be a model because she attended school from an early age and began working for state-owned oil giant Pemex at the age of 14.
In 1942, when she was barely 16, architect Vicente Mendiola Quezada and sculptor Juan Olaguibel, who were working on some of Pemex´s facilities, invited her to pose for a work that then-President Manuel Avila Camacho, who was in office from 1940 to 1946, commissioned.
"They even treated me to ice cream to try to convince me to be the muse for a sculpture that would be placed on one of the main avenues in Mexico City and would be different from the existing ones of historical figures," Martínez Verdayes said.
Once she was able to confirm that the invitation was legitimate and would immortalize her, Martínez Verdayes said she acted without thinking about it further.
"One day, I just put on my bathing suit and went to the sculptor´s studio," she said.
TAKING IT ALL OFF
"When I agreed to pose, they told me (wearing) my bathing suit would not work because the muscles in every part of my body could not be seen. I saw that the sculptor´s wife and children were there, so I felt confident and little by little took everything off until I was completely naked," Martínez Verdayes said.
She said that to avoid scandalizing her family and losing her Pemex job, which she held for 27 years, she asked that her identity not be revealed.
Martínez Verdayes said she also "asked that the sculpture not have my face."
Weeks after the official unveiling of the sculpture, Martínez Verdayes´s request would prove a good move in avoiding getting mixed up in a scandal when Mexico´s then-first lady, Soledad Orozco de Ávila Camacho, and the League for Decency forced modifications to be made to the work, including putting a loin cloth on Diana.
NEW HOME IN HIDALGO
The original sculpture of Diana the Huntress, which suffered some damage later, is now in Ixmiquilpan, a city in the central state of Hidalgo.
The monument now on Reforma Avenue in Mexico City is a copy made to prevent further damage to the original.
In 1952, Martínez Verdayes posed for a monument to Mexico´s oil nationalization that now stands at the so-called Fountain of Oil on Paseo de la Reforma.
Martínez Verdayes is currently married to Jorge Díaz Serrano, a former Pemex chief who was jailed for five years for mismanagement at the state-owned company.
She said she was a happy woman who had enjoyed "all the satisfactions in life."
"There are sculptures of me in my country, I have a husband with whom I celebrated 50 years of marriage and many other things," she said.
|"Diana la Cazadora" (Wolfgang Ortmann)|
|"Independence Angel" on Reforma Avenue|