Was Maria Felix the Inspiration for H. Walter’s Ilonka?

A couple of years ago, I posted a piece about our painting of ‘Ilonka’ signed by H. Walter. The origins of the dark haired beauty’s painter still remain a mystery (despite a heck of a lot of Googling on my part… what can I say, it’s replaced good old fashioned research). However, some light may have been shed on ‘Ilonka’ herself.

Ilonka by H. Walter
Ilonka by H. Walter

One of the comments on my original post suggested that the original model for the picture could have been a famous Mexican actress called Maria Felix. There are certainly striking similarities between the two women:

Maria Felix
Was Maria Felix the original ‘Ilonka’?

Born on the 8th of April, 1914 Alamos, Sonora, Mexico, María de los Ángeles Félix Güereña was one of the most famous Mexican actresses of the era. She starred in 47 films, none of them English speaking as she always refused to learn English. There’s a fabulous obituary published here about her, which describes her life more eloquently than I ever could.

One of the more relevant and interesting points mentioned is that she was painted several times by various artists, including this gorgeous painting by Diego Rivera:

Maria Felix painted by Diego Rivera
Maria Felix painted by Diego Rivera

Apparently, she was furious that he had painted her in a see-through dress!

Whatever the truth is – perhaps the elusive H. Walter was inspired by Maria Felix to paint ‘Ilonka’ – Maria Felix herself is a woman worthy of comment and further discovery. By all accounts, feisty, opinionated and highly entertaining; this fascinating woman has brought some Mexican glamour to the hunt for ‘Ilonka’s origins.


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