Category Archives: Pedro Menocal


Nancy Reagan wearing Adolfo in her Pedro Menocal portrait

Adolfo (Adolfo F. Sardina), the Cuban born designer (and cousin of society portraitist Pedro Menocal) was one of mother’s favorite designers in late 60s New York.  After graduating from the University of Havana in 1948, he emigrated to the U.S. and served in the navy.  His fashion career started when he became an apprentice milliner at Bergdorf’s in the early 50s and then moved to Balenciaga in Paris and also Chanel –primarily as a milliner or hat maker.  He moved permanently to New York in the earlier sixties and opened his own millinery salon, winning a coveted Coty award for his designs.  Soon he began to design clothes which grew in popularity and surpassed his success with hats.  In the late sixties, inspired by Chanel’s cardigan style suits of the 1930s he began a long line of knitwear suits with increasingly sensational adornments that captured the favor of the likes C.Z. Guest, the Duchess of Windsor, Nancy Reagan and Mother.  His clothes are in the collections of the Met, the Smithsonian, LACMA and other museums.  He retired at the top of his game in 1993 to the dismay of many of his clients.

Picture of Wendy Rea

Wendy Rea by Pedro Menocal

Pedro Menocal, Cuban-born portraitist to high society (and their horses), was in London in 1972 when he did Mother’s portrait (featured on the cover of Chanel).  He had done our, by then ,ex-stepbrother’s and ex-stepsisters’ portraits in New York so Mother had him do ours as well — me at twelve and Robbie at eleven.  It was during the phase between my stepfather Oliver Rea and Mother when they were happily living apart but kind of falling in love all over again.  Mother sent a note to The American School and told them Robbie and I were to be called Wendy and Robin Rea in an effort to further lock her self in with Oliver.  I supposed having our portraits done by the same artist who had done our stepfather’s other children was another way of strengthening the bond.  I would be officially known as Wendy Rea until I was twenty and changed my name back.

Pedro Menocal

This dashing man was Pedro Menocal, the Cuban-born painter who did my mother’s portrait which hangs on the wall of the room on the cover of Chanel Bonfire.  Pedro was born outside of Havana in the country house of his Grandfather, General Mario Menocal.  He was born into a world of privilege (his family owned sugar and rice plantations) and pursued an interest in horses and art leading eventually to the study of architecture at the University of Havana.  Because of trouble with mathematics (I can totally relate) he never completed his studies.  After the revolution, he fled to New York City with his wife Magda and their daughter Magdalena.  It was in New York that he first started drawing and painting professionally, eventually becoming one of the most popular society portratists (and horse painters) of the late 20th Century. In addition to portraits of international financier, John Loeb, the children and horses of mining king, John Englehard, Jr., and the official portrait of first lady, Nancy Reagan, Menocal did Mother’s, my and Robbie’s portraits.  His wife and daughter now live in Mexico City and graciously allowed me to use Mother’s portrait for the cover of Chanel.