This is a big deal. OK, it’s not the $71.5 million that Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait sold for in 1998, but the last self-portrait that Frida Kahlo painted just outsold all her others at $34.9 million. In 1990 the same picture went for $1.4 million and $8 million in 2016. So, there’s progress.

The painting, titled "Diego y Yo" (Diego and I), shows a teary-eyed Frida wearing a likeness of her husband Diego Rivera on her forehead – in the manner of a third eye. But there is nothing mystical or beyond ordinary sight. She was telling us that Diego was on her mind and distressing her because of his relationship with Mexican actress Maria Felix.

Bleeding heart

Probably the only other of Kahlo’s self-portraits that speak to the pain that Diego’s extramarital affair caused her is "The Two Frida’s." Besides the double image, each shows an exposed heart joined by a shared blood vessel. One Frida holds a portrait of Diego who she divorced for a short time before marrying him again.

The other Frida holds a clamp to their shared blood vessel as if to keep it from bleeding. So, rather than wear her heart on the proverbial sleeve, in Diego y Y it’s on her forehead, making clear that he’s on her mind.

NBCNews quotes art historian Natalia Zerbato saying that "Diego y Yo" "speaks to both the state of Kahlo’s fragile marriage" and the fragile state of health.

According to Zerbato, she was suffering a lot of physical pain when she made this painting, along with the emotional pain.

Privatizing a painting

The buyer of this painting is Eduardo Costantini, founder of the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires. But his purchase won’t be added to the museum collection. Instead, he’s keeping it for himself.

This is odd for a man who founded a museum, and all the odder because there are so few of Kahlo’s self-portraits on view for the public to see.

James Oles, the curator of Latin American art at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, told Hyperallergic that the small number of her self-portraits makes them “special.” But Sotheby’s points out that when it comes to high auction sales of female painters, Georgia O’Keeffe has Kahlo beat with her Jimson Weed/White Flower No.

1 that fetched $44 million.

You have to wonder if Kahlo’s auction price would be higher if there weren’t so many assembly-line products bearing her face - from sweat socks to Barbie dolls. “How could they turn her into a Barbie?” asked Salma Hayek, who played the artist in the biopic “Frida” in 2002. “She celebrated her uniqueness,” Hayek added. Multiple Barbies of her spoil the celebration.

Kahlo with her raw, unflinching look at herself is not one to be toyed with. Surely no one would think to make Van Gogh into a Ken doll. Not that Van Gogh didn’t get merchandized in other ways. His Starry Night reprinted on lumbar pillows comes to mind.

A doll of Frida wouldn’t be so bad, but the blond plastic Barbie doll manufactured by Mattel with her unrealistic body proportions has zero to do with Kahlo who faced reality head-on. Research at the University Central Hospital in Helsinki, Finland found that Barbie dolls lack the body fat necessary for a woman to menstruate. Get real, Mattel. Kahlo did.