La Calavera Catrina ('Dapper Skeleton', 'Elegant Skull') is a 1910–1913 zinc etching by famous Mexican printmaker, cartoon illustrator and lithographer Jose Guadalupe Posada. The image depicts a female skeleton dressed only in a hat befitting the upper class outfit of a European of her time. Her chapeau en attende is related to French and European styles of the early 20th century. She is meant to portray a satirization of those Mexican natives who, Posada felt, were over embracing European traditions of the aristocracy in the pre-revolutionary era. She in particular has become an icon of the Mexican Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
Originally called La Calavera Garbancera, the etching was created sometime between 1910 and 1913 by Jose Guadalupe Posada as a broadside. The work's fame however comes from its appearance in the first posthumous edition, which was published from the original plates in 1930 by Frances Toor, Blas Vanegas Arroyo and Pablo O'Higgins, entitled Mongrafia: Las Obras de Jose Guadalupe Posada, Grabador Mexicano. Calavera Catrina (Dapper Skeleton)1. This image can be found on plate 21 of Posada's Popular Mexican Prints.Isabel is a poupular name for the dead.
The image made from zinc etching captures the famous calaveras or skull/skeleton image that had become popular at the turn of the 20th century. The original leaflet describes a person who was ashamed of his Indian origins and dressed imitating the French style while wearing lots of makeup to make his skin look whiter. This description also ties to the original name garbancera, which became a nickname given to people of indigenous ancestry who imitated European style and denied their own cultural heritage.
"La Catrina has become the referential image of Death in Mexico, it is common to see her embodied as part of the celebrations of Day of the Dead throughout the country; she has become a motive for the creation of handcrafts made from clay or other materials, her representations may vary, as well as the hat." – J.G. Posada
While the original work by Posada introduced the character, the popularity of La Calavera Catrina as well as her name is derived from a work by artist Diego Rivera in his 1948 work Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central (Dream of a Sunday afternoon along Central Alameda).