It is as if in this painting Kahlo tries on the role of wife to see how it fits. She does not focus on her identity as a painter, but instead adopts a passive and supportive role, holding the hand of her talented and acclaimed husband. It was indeed the case that during the majority of her painting career, Kahlo was viewed only in Rivera's shadow and it was not until later in life that she gained international recognition.
This early double-portrait was painted primarily to mark the celebration of Kahlo's marriage to Rivera. Whilst Rivera holds a palette and paintbrushes, symbolic of his artistic mastery, Kahlo limits her role to his wife by presenting herself slight in frame and without her artistic accouterments. Kahlo furthermore dresses in a costume typical of the Mexican woman, or La Mexicana, wearing a traditional red shawl known as the rebozo and jade Aztec beads. The positioning of the figures echoes that of traditional marital portraiture where the wife is placed on her husband's left to indicate her lesser moral status as a woman. In a lithograph made the following year called Frida and the Miscarriage (1932), the artist does hold her own palette, as though the experience of losing a fetus and not being able to create a baby shifts her determination wholly to the creation of art.
Frieda gave this painting to art collector Albert Bender in gratitude for the USA entry visa he helped to acquire for Diego. Rivera had previously been refused entry into the USA due to his Communist party affiliation. In the title of this printing, Frida uses the German spelling of her name: Frieda. The banner at the top of the painting proclaims: "Here you see us, me, Frieda Kahlo, with my beloved husband Diego Rivera. I painted these portraits in the beautiful city of San Francisco California for our friend Mr. Albert Bender, and it was in the month of April of the year 1931". When the painting was finished, a San Francisco newspaper described the work as being: "...valuable only because it was painted by the wife of Diego Rivera ".
This painting was shown at the "Sixth Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Society of Women Artists" - the first public showing of Frida's work.