July 21, 2017

What could be more surrealistic than exhuming the surrealist?

You might say, no, it's not surrealistic. There's nothing more down to earth than digging a decayed corpse out of the ground. But Salvador Dali — the surrealist in question — was extracted not from some graveyard, but from a crypt within his own museum.

Here's the NYT article about the exhumation, done according to a court order in a case about whether Pilar Abel, "a 61-year-old Tarot card reader," has a claim to "the worth hundreds of millions of dollars that Dali left to the Spanish state." So it's not as though Dali avoided writing a will. He tried to give all his money to the government. (Am I wrong?)
The tombstone was lifted with a pulley to allow access to the painter’s coffin below. Forensic experts then collected hair, teeth and nail samples, as well as a couple of bones...
Are they making a collage?!
... which will be replaced once the DNA testing is completed.

Ms. Abel wants to be recognized as Dalí’s daughter, born as a result of what she has called a “clandestine love affair” that her mother had with the painter in the late 1950s in Port Lligat, the fishing village where Dalí and his Russian-born wife, Gala, built a waterfront house.

Dalí died at 84 in 1989, seven years after Gala, with whom he had had an unusual and childless relationship: Gala moved to a castle overlooking Púbol, another Catalan village, and Dalí could only visit her there if she extended a written invitation....
Gala was 10 years older than Dali. From her Wikipedia page:
Due to his purported phobia of female genitalia,* Dalí was said to have been a virgin when they met on the Costa Brava in 1929. Around that time she was found to have uterine fibroids, for which she underwent a hysterectomy in 1936. She was Dalí's muse, directly inspiring and appearing in many of his works.
Here's the most prominent image, "Portrait of Galarina":



What path did your eye take and how many points of interest did you take in before you saw...

... the snake around her wrist?
________________________

* From the Wikipedia page for Dali:
During his childhood, Dalí's father would force him to look at grotesque images of advanced-stage untreated sexually transmitted diseases. This led the young Dalí to develop a fear of and obsession with sex, decay, and castration. These became frequent themes in his various works, most famously in his 1929 painting The Great Masturbator. In 1922, Dalí attended the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando where he met Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, an openly gay man. Dalí is rumored to have had an affair with Lorca and a life-long love and obsession with him after Lorca's assassination in 1936. Although Dalí denied this in his autobiography, various accounts from those close to him along with exchanged letters do hint at an attempted love affair between the two. In his later years, Dalí admitted to finding himself drawn towards men, as long as they were androgynous and feminine.

In 1929, when Dalí met his future wife, Gala, he was said to still be a virgin because of his fear of being touched and of female genitalia. He was reputed to be a voyeur deriving sexual gratification from watching his wife and others perform sexual acts, and the couple were known to throw large orgies at their mansion. Their open marriage gave Gala the freedom to have multiple affairs until her death, but ambiguity and rumors continued to surround Dalí's own sexual preferences. Despite his grandiose public image, Dalí had a sense of inadequacy in regard to his sexual self. In spite of his fears that masturbation would lead to impotence, homosexuality, and insanity, throughout his life Dalí regularly practiced self-gratification in front of a mirror. It is believed that Dalí solely engaged in masturbation and nothing else, because of his fear of physical contact.
So Pilar Abel's mother could very well have had access to Dali's genetic material. And yet, if she did, why didn't she attempt to get in on the money back when Dali died, which was 28 years ago?

AND: If Pilar Abel was lucky enough to come into this world with half of her genetic gift from a great artist, why is she only a tarot card reader? Or is it possible to be a great artist within the arcane field of tarot-card reading? 

66 comments:

Rocketeer said...

I saw the snake immediately.

Does that mean I'm gay?

Rocketeer said...

Ever read how Dali presented himself to Gala on the beach in an effort to win her, er, attentions?

Lash LaRue said...

I didn't see the snake. Does that mean I'm gay?

MadisonMan said...

I was distracted by that arched eyebrow that somehow made me think of Dali's mustache.

Henry said...

Lips, nipple, fingers of the left hand. Classic reading pattern -- top to bottom, left to right.

But I spent most time looking at the fingers. Sinuous. Very Dali.

Unknown said...

3 points: breast, aeirole, nipple,

Didn't see the snake and still can't see it.

Ann Althouse said...

I didn't see the snake either. I read about it. But I started reading pretty soon after I looked at the picture. The text got in my way. That goes to show you should look at a painting for a long time before you start reading the text.

Ryan said...

"Voyeur" is not accurate. He got off on being a cuckold.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

What path did your eye take and how many points of interest did you take in before you saw...

... the snake around her wrist?


She has wrists?

Ryan said...

I do not understand the sentence starting with "despite." He looks exactly like someone who would be petrified of female genatalia.

rhhardin said...

See, that's how you make a breast interesting. Conceal the other and show what you're supposed to be imagining.

Imagination needs a chance.

rcocean said...

Well, that was TMI for me. But no doubt fascinates some.

Maybe, the NYT or New Yorker can run a 10 page article on the masturbation habits of American "Intellectuals".

The could call it "the big circle jerk".

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

I saw it in the order I scrolled down on my phone. Hair. . . face . . . oh nice tittie! . . . Uninteresting painting. That's as far as I got. Snake looks like bracelet.

rhhardin said...

Guys are wired but they're not wired in the way that's popularly imagined.

Although plenty of women apparently know about it.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I thought it was a bracelet. As I was scrolling down I saw the face first and was actually pretty startled when I saw the bare breast because I was expecting a conventional portrait.

Meade said...

"So Pilar Abel's mother could very well have had access to Dali's genetic material. "

Salvador Splooge Stooge.

Fernandinande said...

"People with a brown aura, regardless of the shade of brown represented or the amount of within the aura, tend to be very businesslike and careful, but nurturing and generally interested in helping others."

rhhardin said...

The old Playboys aren't interesting anymore. That's the way they sold a new one every month.

The old ones are just the wife/gf with no clothes on, not erotic. Nothing to discover.

The new one has new faces and what you're supposed to be imagining for them. Presented too explicitly, alas, to work for long.

YuriG said...

Snake? What snake?

holdfast said...

before you saw...the creepy man-hands?

David said...

"That goes to show you should look at a painting for a long time before you start reading the text."

Or look away quickly while there is still time.

David said...

In one of Dali's most famous paintings, everything is limp and flaccid. Hmmm?

The hell with art. Let's talk about sex.

rcocean said...

It took me quite a while to see the snake, since it looks like a bracelet. What first struck me about the picture is that if covered up the breast and shaved the hair, you'd have a teenage boy. The arms and face are quite masculine.

Ann Althouse said...

"Well, that was TMI for me. But no doubt fascinates some."

The story is very weird, so it may seem prurient, and you may feel superior if it doesn't draw you in when others find it fascinating. But the paintings themselves are fascinating. One can enjoy them without thinking about what mental state lay behind them. But I think the background is worth knowing. It's also worth thinking about how much of what he was was caused by the unnecessary twisting of his natural sexual impulses. He was afraid of women, but perhaps he was gay, but maybe he wasn't and just considered that path because of his fear of women. Most people are not that contorted, and no one else painted like that. It's a very sad story to me now as I contemplate it and think that they should not have taken his body out of the crypt and broken out bones and teeth to satisfy some old woman's late-breaking curiosity and greed.

But maybe you think he had orgies in a castle so fuck him.

Freeman Hunt said...

She looks like she could be somebody's neighbor standing out in the yard chatting about various neighborhood things. Except...

"Meredith, you must have been in a hurry this morning. Looks like your buttons got away from you."

traditionalguy said...

Standard issue tits. It must be her strength that shows in her face that gave Dali a hunk of real live female flesh that he needed to cling to as an antidote for his cubist insanity, not that there is anything wrong with cubist insanity.

Feste said...

“What path did your eye take and how many points of interest did you take in before you saw...”

Honey, I’m trained to plot my escape as I make my advances. I saw what looked like a snake. All that nipple - got nothin’ on me.

rhhardin said...

In the news

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers not to buy or use Kopi Jantan Tradisional Natural Herbs Coffee.

An FDA lab analysis confirmed the presence of desmethyl carbodenafil in Kopi Jantan Traditional Natural Herbs Coffee. Desmethyl carbodenafil is structurally similar to sildenafil, the main ingredient found in Viagra (Pfizer) indicated for erectile dysfunction.

Awake and Erect, say Armstrong and Getty.

Freeman Hunt said...

"During his childhood, Dalí's father would force him to look at grotesque images of advanced-stage untreated sexually transmitted diseases. This led the young Dalí to develop a fear of and obsession with sex, decay, and castration."

That's sad. Parents are weird.

Somewhat similarly, I am shocked at how many women were taught as children that sex is debasing and that having sex makes one somehow impure. There are a great number of even middle aged women struggling to overcome those ideas.

rhhardin said...

Standard issue tits.

Science has determined that you want the nipple pointing upwards at 20 degrees for the optimal breast.

I imagine that was a Psych 200 series study.

traditionalguy said...

The lady was Russian Orthodox and well educated pre Bolshevik Russian. Orgy time at the Castile castle would be rather traditional for her.

Dali was lucky to have her.

William said...

I don't know if Dali is the weirdest human being who ever lived, but he's certainly one of the semi-finalists. Maybe that woman you wrote about yesterday is giving her son a leg up on pursuing a career as a surrealist..........I noticed her hair style--which was similar to that of my mother when I was a toddler--and her naked breast. Freud was not mistaken about everything.

rhhardin said...

A priori there ought to be better angles than 20 degrees, if math had anything to do with it. It just goes to show you.

Ann Althouse said...

I notice her 5-o'clock shadow.

rcocean said...

"But the paintings themselves are fascinating. One can enjoy them without thinking about what mental state lay behind them. But I think the background is worth knowing."

Well, you're *very* interested in art AND the artist.

Saint Croix said...

That's a boring painting. I think that would be exhibit A in an argument you want to make that surreal painters are surreal because they can't do normal.

Un Chien Andalou is freaky. Slicing up that damn eyeball!

I like Dali's sequence in Hitchcock's movie, Spellbound. (Although William Cameron Menzies did the actual work of creating those sets and filming them). It's a pretty lame Hitchcock, in my opinion, but the dream sequence is cool.

There was a lot of eye-slicing in Dali's films, for some damn reason. His paintings remind me of Terry Gilliam's stuff.

Googling Terry Gilliam and Dali, I find that he was an influence.

I love this story…

Dalí was probably the first of the surrealists whose work I came across. His stuff was great - and he was the best at self-promotion, ha ha. There’s a bookshop in New York I would always go into and browse when I was younger – in winter I would go in there just to stay warm. And I remember one day I was in the art section, and this new book of Dalí’s work had just been published, it had this big gold-leaf cover. Anyway I saw this guy rearranging the books, he was putting all the Dalí books out in front of the other books. I looked over to see who it was, and it was Dalí! Hahaha. What a wonderful thing that was.

Saint Croix said...

oops, here's the link to Gilliam and Dali.

buwaya said...

Dali was a very odd duck of course. Goes without saying really, he was the very definition of "odd duck". He didnt invent professional eccentricity, but he certainly defined the standard.

On a tangent, he was as politically ambiguous as he was sexually unclassifiable. There probably wasnt another Spanish artist or intellectual who managed the storms of Spanish 20th century politics quite as well. Everyone else had to take sides, for which they all had to pay a price at some point. Dali managed to avoid most of it, to keep his home and live in his homeland, suffering nothing in life nor in posthumous reputation.

As for being dug up, I suspect he may have found that amusing, even fascinating.

gspencer said...

A crypt? Very few in the world can ever afford to have a crypt. The only ones I knew were the Corleone's. Anyway, opening the big vault door, watching the spiders scurrying away, clearing away their webs, letting the stale putrid air be replaced by some 2017 air, setting up. lifting the slab, almost gives ya the creeps.

btw, Dali's not there; in fact he never entered his own crypt. What's there is his corrupted, decaying body, the fate that awaits us all.

And Gala? Bit of a dog. Nothing alluring about her or that picture.

buwaya said...

Gala's castle is in Pubol, near Gerona, Catalunia, so its a Catalan castle, not Castilian. His home in on the Costa Brava, not far away. Visit the region if you can, its worth a look.

Dali was a Catalan. Its not too often mentioned, but the sensibility and eccentricity in Dali has strong Catalan elements, as they have their own native brand of surreal weirdness, existing long before any popular artists. I think its telling that he was so tied to his region, not simply Catalunia, but rural-small town Northern Catalunia. He could after all have stuck himself in much more worldly Barcelona for the sake of public display.

Jim said...

From almost fifty years of experience, I can safely say mastubation does not lead to impotence or homosexuality. I'll leave the insanity judgement to others.

buwaya said...

Most of my relatives are in crypts, in niches, the walls or floors of churches. There are churches in Manila where you can stand on my ancestors, where they lie surrounded by their friends and neighbors.

YuriG said...

As George Orwell said, Dali was a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being.

Eric Landgraf said...

Excuse me, but it appears to me that she has a 2:4 digit issue on that hand. Was she gay? The index finger seems significantly longer than her ring finger? A faux-lesbian relationship with Dali may be his ideal M:F romantic relationship. Especially if she was butch. Did Dali cross dress or cavort as a trans? NTTIAWWT. Cue the KINKS and Lola.

Earnest Prole said...

Gala got it goin’ on: My Wife, Nude, Contemplating Her Own Flesh Becoming Stairs, Three Vertebrae of a Column, Sky and Architecture

Etienne said...

This is another reason where cremation would have put an end to this ambulance chasing lawyer madness.

Redistribution of wealth, is the new Gold Rush. Sue the man who had sex with your mother, even if it was 50 years ago.

Don't bury Gold in the ground - bury ashes.

Meade said...

If you're a man, and you're repelled by man-hands, masturbation might not be for you.

rcocean said...

Looks like Dali exaggerated the size of the hands, to exaggerate the size of the snake.

rcocean said...

"As George Orwell said, Dali was a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being"

That applies to a lot of artists and writers. There seems to be no connection between artistic talent and decency let alone wisdom.

Earnest Prole said...

There seems to be no connection between artistic talent and decency let alone wisdom.

If anything an inverse relationship, as hundreds of years of artists and composers will attest, not to mention Frank Sinatra.

FullMoon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
R.J. Chatt said...

I noticed the grimace first, the red mouth and strength of the jaw. Very masculine imo, and even the hairstyle is rather masculine. Then I noticed the form and softness of the breast being offered. Then I saw the large strong hands but I wouldn't call them man hands. She doesn't appear as masculine in the photos of her, so I'd say Dali was revealing her personality. In contrast, in the paintings where Gala appears as a model Dali emphasizes her femininity, as the Madonna and so forth. More than being a "muse" and model, she really was his business manager and responsible for his financial success.

Want more surrealistic? How about cloning his DNA?

Geoff Matthews said...

"If Pilar Abel was lucky enough to come into this world with half of her genetic gift from a great artist, why is she only a tarot card reader?"

Deviation towards the mean. It isn't uncommon for extraordinary people to have more ordinary offspring.

buwaya said...

Orwell's particular problem, well one of them, is unfamiliarity with Dali's cultural context.

Mr. Blair was both easily shocked and not quick on the cultural uptake, as can be seen in some of his other works, especially I think "Burmese Days". He was not a man to go with the flow.

As I said above, Dali was profoundly Catalan. These people have a, well, appreciation for scatology. Among other things, they like to stick this sort of thing in nativity scenes.

http://assets.atlasobscura.com/media/W1siZiIsInVwbG9hZHMvcGxhY2VfaW1hZ2VzLzViYThkZjFhNDIzODBmNWNjMzEyMDk3YTc1YjBmMDhmZDczYzE4ZGQuanBnIl0sWyJwIiwidGh1bWIiLCJ4MzkwPiJdLFsicCIsImNvbnZlcnQiLCItcXVhbGl0eSA5MSAtYXV0by1vcmllbnQiXV0/5ba8df1a42380f5cc312097a75b0f08fd73c18dd.jpg

Still extremely popular.

And as for necrophilia and graphic suffering - Dali was also very Spanish, and Catholic- this interest in upsetting matters is probably, in large part, a reflection of Catholic imagery and practice.

If you come from this culture you can't avoid the bleeding, dying Christ, the dead Christ, all bled out, the often very graphically tortured saints. At Manila's San Agustin museum (or Catholic art, imagery, religious paraphernalia, and Agustinian history; if you are ever in Manila, go) there is one saints image, in a huge collection of traditional wooden images taken from churches across the islands, being all serene with a bolo very firmly stuck in his skull; I can see Dali doing this, vastly better executed of course. Just one of many similar things that I recall. This was moreover folk art. That's where their minds were.

And then there are the skulls and bones, which are near-ubiquitous. Granted this stuff is much less prevalent NOW, in the watered down modern church that often might as well be Episcopalian. But the old church was hardcore on the subject of death, and none more so than the Spanish church.

And furthermore, on the casual attitude to death, to slaughter and to cruelty, this is the Spanish peasant, and Dali was a countryman. I still remember an incident, something I still remember very clearly from when I was a very small lad, in our Basque village. The older boys had trapped an old stray dog. They happily stoned it to death. Dead donkeys would not have fazed them.

I don't think Orwell, the English bourgeois, quite got all that.

buwaya said...

The fellow with the knife stuck in his head is the Dominican Inquisitor St. Peter of Verona.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e9/Lorenzo_Lotto_-_Madonna_and_Child_with_St_Peter_Martyr_-_WGA13648.jpg

Quite a popular subject actually.

YuriG said...

"Mr. Blair was both easily shocked and not quick on the cultural uptake...."

Orwell wasn't a prude. He was friendly with Henry Miller and admired his writing. His problem with Miller was not with his obscenity or scatology, but that Miller was apolitical.

Freeman Hunt said...

"If you're a man, and you're repelled by man-hands, masturbation might not be for you."

Driving robot demand.

William said...

I think the past subjunctive tense corresponds to Dali's melting clocks. Dali paints the subjunctive past........More than any other people in Europe, the history of the Spaniards is surreal. So many strange events.

buwaya said...

"Orwell wasn't a prude."

Orwell was not a prude in the way that a bourgeois Englishman (or American) is not a prude.
But he was not a non-prude in the way a Spaniard (or a Chinese or a Burman) is a non-prude.

mccullough said...

Looks like Nurse Ratched breast feeding an imaginary baby. The snake symbolizes the weakness of temptation. It's lumper than Dali's dick

mccullough said...

Limper

Paul Snively said...

Dr. Althouse: If Pilar Abel was lucky enough to come into this world with half of her genetic gift from a great artist, why is she only a tarot card reader? Or is it possible to be a great artist within the arcane field of tarot-card reading?

Ask, and ye shall receive. Dali's tarot is every bit as evocative, and cryptic, as you would expect. By comparison, Aleister Crowley's Thoth deck is downright pedestrian, and Arthur Edward Waite's—the one everyone knows—is boring.

Ann Althouse said...

Tarot card illustrator is different from a tarot card reader, ie, a fortune teller.

Ann Althouse said...

But thanks for the link to the Dali cards. I have enjoyed the design of tarot cards, own several decks, used to draw my own cards, and have thought of an alternative life path of being a tarcard reader. I actually believe it is possible to be a great tarot card reader. And I say that without any belief in anything supernatural in it.

openidname said...

There's so much in this post -- so many things to comment on.

But I'll just say: Doesn't Spain have statutes of limitations?!?

Freeman Hunt said...

" I actually believe it is possible to be a great tarot card reader. And I say that without any belief in anything supernatural in it."

I can think of two approaches:

A therapist and encourager with occult window dressings.

Or...

A storyteller with occult window dressings.

Are there more?