Author Archives: Paul Chimera


The Vatican Boasts a ‘Trinity’ of Salvador Dali Paintings

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


I’m not sure very many people – even card-carrying Dali aficionados – are aware that the Vatican in Rome has a Salvador Dali painting in its permanent art collection. Actually, it owns a trinity of Dali’s, each with varying degrees of religious imagery.


While much of Dali’s life and work had nothing to do with religion, a good part of it did. In the late 1940s he had his first small version of “The Madonna of Port Lligat,” for example, blessed by Pope Pious XII. Three of his most famous paintings are religious in nature: “Christ of St. John of the Cross,” “The Sacrament of the Last Supper,” and “Corpus Hypercubus.”


The study for “Corpus Hypercubus” is one of the paintings in the Vatican Museum. Sometimes Dali’s preparatory studies were wonderfully finished works in their own right. This study is a good example of that.


A second Dali painting in the Vatican collection is “The Trinity,” also a study – in this case for the large “Ecumenical Council” of 1960, which hangs in the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Dali clearly expressed his Nuclear-Mystical sensibilities in this preparatory canvas. While the figure of God the Father is painted along classical lines, those of Jesus and the Holy Spirit are composed of quick dashes of paint that capture the anti-matter particles as imagined by modern physicists.


But I believe there’s another unique technique seen here. Notice in the background a linear series of circles on either side of God. Can you guess how Dali may have created this circular pattern? Here’s my conjecture:


It’s known conclusively that a similar appearance of this strip of circles, which appears in the extreme top right corner of “The Ecumenical Council” (not easily discerned in reproductions) was made by Dali pressing an octopus tentacle onto the canvas! It’s my belief that Dali did the same thing in his “Ecumenical Council” study in the Vatican.


If that seems a bit peculiar, so does the third Dali work in Vatican City – “Soft Monster in Angelic Landscape.” As I understand it, this work was gifted to the Vatican by King Juan Carlos I in 1980. Its religious connection is seen in several angelic figures.


But the “monster” figure lying over the rock in the foreground is a variant of the well-known “Great Masturbator” head seen in “The Persistence of Memory” and many other Dali paintings.


It’s not clear whether the Vatican is aware of this reference, but the appearance of angels helps justify the work’s Vatican home. And while the Vatican boasts three original Dali’s, I don’t believe there are any other important works by the Catalan surrealist in the Eternal City.



Dali’s iconic ‘Christ of St. John of the Cross’ coming to America

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Next month, something rather exceptional will be occurring in the endlessly exciting world of Salvador Dali. What many, including me, consider Dali’s most famous religious painting – in fact, what might be the most famous religious painting of the last century – is coming to the Dali Museum in Florida from Great Britain.


To St. Petersburg, to be precise. To One Dali Boulevard, to be even more precise. It’s an address guaranteed to be overrun with traffic from across the country. And from practically everywhere else.


“Dali/Duchamp” opens at the Florida Dali Museum Saturday, Feb. 10 and runs through Sunday, May 27. Works by Marcel Duchamp will be compared and contrasted with those of Dali – but nothing can possibly compare with “Christ of St. John of the Cross.”


It leaves me incredulous that some people don’t even know who Salvador Dali was. But when they’re shown the image of Dali’s “Christ” – whose permanent home is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Scotland – they’re unanimous in responding, “Oh, yes, I’ve seen that picture,” invariably followed by their own incredulity: “That was painted by Salvador Dali?”

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I suppose critics have been divided on this monumental masterwork not because of what it portrays or how it was painted, but because its creator was Dali. Some simply didn’t want to accept that such a wickedly impish self-promoter painted one of the most heart-stopping religious icons of the century.


Meanwhile, the public has adored this beautiful picture since Dali finished it in 1951. Its design is based on a small sketch made by St. John of the Cross, a Spanish friar; his drawing is preserved in the Monastery of the Incarnation in Avila. Its unusual perspective of the Crucifixion gave rise to Dali’s unorthodox view of Jesus from above.

This sketch by John of the Cross started it all.

This sketch by John of the Cross started it all.


It’s interesting that Hollywood stuntman Russell Saunders posed for this work in 1950, suspended from an overhead gantry. I interviewed Mr. Saunders many years ago about this experience, and he said Dali was very particular and precise – wanting everything to be just so as he shaped up one of his most universally recognized and revered masterpieces.

Photos of Saunders, who posed for Dali's "Christ."

Photos of Saunders, who posed for Dali’s “Christ.”



In its obituary of Saunders in 2001, the Los Angeles Times quoted him about his Dalinian experience: “I didn’t even know who he (Dali) was at the time,” Saunders recalled in 1984. “I was working for Warner Bros Studios and tested in front of this guy with a cane and a waxed mustache. I got paid $35 a day to pose.” According to the Royal Academy in England, Saunders was also stunt double for Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain.”


What I find fascinating is the photo seen below:


Handing it to Dali.

Handing it to Dali.

It shows a man – I don’t believe it’s Saunders, but it might be – actually hand-posing for Dali, so that he could capture the most realistic intensity of a hand with curled fingers.


When “Christ of St. John of the Cross” first went on display in Glasgow in 1951, it received a cool reception, at least by some. Museum officials groused that they wanted to allocate their budget differently. They didn’t want to pour so much money into the acquisition of just a single piece of art.


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Ironically, Dali’s “Christ” has been determined in a nationwide Scottish poll to be that country’s most admired work of art. No surprise there.


Dali discusses his "Christ" with Bobbie Kennedy.

Dali discusses his “Christ” with Bobbie Kennedy.


And while “Christ” may not have received the warmest reception in Glasgow all those years back, I think we can safely say it’s going to take St. Petersburg, and the whole country, by storm.







Box of Pencils Inspired Salvador Dali Masterpiece

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


What inspired Dali?


Answer: all kinds of things. Anything. EVERYTHING!


The man possessed limitless curiosity. He could get excitedly creative over things you or I wouldn’t have given even a fleeting thought to. Or over something monumental, to which he would lend a special twist, making it uniquely his own.


We know Dali was profoundly inspired by nature – specifically the landscape around his beautiful life-long home of Port Lligat on Spain’s Costa Brava. We know his Russian-born wife, Gala, held incalculable inspirational sway over him. And that, in the 1940s, the explosion of the atomic bomb over Japan moved Dali to see and create in a whole new way, giving birth to his atomic/Nuclear-Mystical period.


But sometimes inspiration came in small and inconspicuous packages. Like a box of Venus-brand drawing pencils. That was, in fact, what gave rise to the development of one of Salvador Dali’s greatest double-image paintings – the remarkable “Hallucinogenic Toreador” of 1970 (Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida).

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It’s rather extraordinary to realize that a pencil box literally was the genesis of what might arguably be Dali’s single greatest painting. We can thank the artist’s paranoiac-critical method for it. This was his unique ability to interpret the things he saw through the mind of a true paranoiac, known to perceive double images, hidden images – things not really there (or were they?).


So a glance by Dali at the right moment, with the right mental and visual discipline, transformed the abdominal and chest region of a picture of the Venus de Milo on a box of Venus pencils into what looked like the angled nose and mouth of a man. A man who would become a matador (toreador) in one of Dali’s most colorful, complex and spectacular paintings.




Dali often reminded us that Leonardo advocated the powerful potential of mere random water stains on a wall to evoke ideas and images that could inspire great art. Now Dali, eyeing a box of pencils, would exploit the same idea to impressive ends.


While I’ve stated many times that my favorite Dali painting is “Santiago El Grande,” the truth is that – were I given the opportunity to choose any one Dali painting to include in my personal collection – I dare say “The Hallucinogenic Toreador” would win out. What “Santiago” lacks, “Toreador” has in abundance: a stunning, rich kaleidoscope of color, and a diverse array of elements that make it worthy of Luis Romero’s book, translated as “All Dali in One Painting.”


It may be the most thoroughly Spanish and thoroughly Dalinian masterpiece of them all. And it all began with a pencil box. Now that’s inspiring.




Dali Never Lost Sight of the Masters who Helped make Him Great!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


For the real Dali enthusiast, it’s always enlightening to discover new things about the artist, how he worked, what inspired him.


I think I’ve found an influence that is not commonly cited for comparison when it comes to Salvador Dali’s first Nuclear-Mystical masterwork – the large and richly nuanced “Madonna of Port Lligat” of 1950.


Scholars have typically and sensibly seen the influence in Dali’s painting by the 15th century painter Piero della Francesca’s picture, “The Montefeltro Altarpiece.” Its dimensions are similar to Dali’s canvas, but of course the key element of comparison and influence is the scallop shell from which an egg hangs.


"The Montefeltro Altarpiece" by Piero della Francesca.

“The Montefeltro Altarpiece” by Piero della Francesca.


That image is a symbol of birth and purity, and a slight variation of it appears at the top of Dali’s work (which this blogger saw and was very impressed by at the “Dali: The Late Work” exhibition in 2010-2011 at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. I just wish it hadn’t been under glass).


But there’s another work – painted about 20 years after the Piero della Francesca – that, in my view, bears some significant parallels to Dali’s, and thus probably influenced him as well. Dali had a voracious appetite for research. He was a highly intelligent man and explored countless resources in creating his complex, deeply meaningful paintings.


Take a look at “Madonna and Child…” (a shortened version of its full title) by Piero di Cosimo, a Florentine painter who painted this canvas in 1493. The key details here are those that make up the stepped throne on which the Madonna sits, holding the Christ child.


"Madonna and Child..." by Piero di Cosimo.

“Madonna and Child…” by Piero di Cosimo.


The two sides of the throne can be easily compared with the architectural backdrop in the Dali. And assorted items at the base of the Cosimo painting find something of an echo in the various elements in the bottom portion of Dali’s canvas, albeit in his 1950 work most everything floats in space – representing Dali’s newly found fascination with intra-atomic matter.


What is admirable about the way Dali approached art is that he never lost sight of the debt he owed to his precursors – great artists he admired and emulated. Chief among them were Velazquez, Raphael, and Vermeer. But surely others of the Renaissance, and other periods, also helped shape Dali’s vision.


And not only did Dali never lose sight of these artists’ contributions to art history, but he paid direct homage to them by including elements of their works in his – sometimes unabashedly quoting details quite exactly.


Just one example is how Dali portrayed the Madonna and Child in his 1959 masterpiece, “The Virgin of Guadalupe.” Look at Dali’s work alongside Raphael’s, from which, of course, Dali took unmistakable guidance. The only real change is the supplanting of the Virgin’s face in the Raphael with the face of Gala in the Dali.

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Ingeniously, Dali managed to keep alive the great artists of the past, while creating something entirely new and not only unique for his time, but often well ahead of it.







‘Persistence of Memory’ Will Always be Most Famous Dali Image

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


I think it’s fitting to ring in the New Year by re-visiting where it really all began for Salvador Dali in terms of the single painting that propelled him to ultimate fame. The one that will always remain his best-known work: “The Persistence of Memory” of 1931.


I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: I don’t think there’s any question that “The Persistence of Memory” – often referred to as simply “The Melting Clocks” or “The Soft Watches” – is the most famous surrealist image ever created. I’m not reticent to suggest, moreover, that it may be the most renowned painting in all of the 20th century.


“Persistence” was painted when Dali was a young man; he was just 27! Many are surprised to realize that. Just as they’re surprised to discover that, despite the work’s larger than life image and impact on art in general and surrealism in particular, it’s a very small painting – perhaps the size of your average laptop computer screen. Here’s a photo that puts that fact into clear focus:

Small in size, gigantic in impact.

Small in size, gigantic in impact.


I’ve seen this iconic work several times, at its permanent home in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and in several exhibitions, and honestly it never fails to take one’s breath away. I think there are two chief reasons for that. One is the emotional experience itself, of coming upon “the great one.” The work that literally defines the art and mystique of Salvador Dali. The work that’s emblematic like no other of what he most famously painted – and how he painted it.


Which brings me to my second chief reason why “Persistence of Memory” is breathtaking: the painting is jewel-like in its exquisite technique. Art enthusiasts learned early on that, no matter what detractors might have averred about Salvador Dali the showman, Salvador Dali the painter was unquestionably a modern-day master.


Of course, the meaning of the soft watches continues to confound, despite countless interpretations and analyses. Could they mean time seemed to stand still in Port Lligat, Spain, where Dali and Gala lived virtually all their lives? Could they symbolize Albert Einstein’s then-new theory of time’s relativity and flexibility? Did the soft watches convey Dali’s disdain for mechanical things and the pressure of time itself on a time-obsessed society?


And how important was the inspiration Dali said he gained, while painting this work, of a nearby clump of Camembert cheese melting in the day’s hot sun?


Or, was it all just a way of expressing the inexplicable nature of the dream world?


Even more perplexing, perhaps, is why Dali chose to title the work as he did. We know that, when Dali revealed the painting to Gala for her reaction, she remarked, “Once a person sees it, they will never forget it.” Is this the idea of one’s memory persisting?


(While they may never forget the image, remembering the painting’s correct title is another story. Sometime after Dali died in 1989, the popular TV game show, Jeopardy!, featured an entire category on Dali. The last clue was a picture of the “Persistence of Memory,” but the contestant failed to properly provide the right title.)


What we know for sure is that all manner of parodies and permutations seem to emerge almost daily, in honor of this unforgettable Salvador Dali masterpiece. Here are just a few of the countless take-offs on Dali’s most universally recognized painting – in addition to his own re-interpretation of it in his 1954 “The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory”:

Soft watches, atomic age-style.

Soft watches, atomic-style.


Soft watch in a Dali print.

Soft watch in a Dali print.


Persistence "Christmasized!"

Persistence “Christmasized!”


Cat lover's version of Dali's iconic painting.

Cat lover’s version of Dali’s iconic painting.


Limp watches give way to limp pasta!

Limp watches give way to limp pasta!


Coffee, tea...or Dali?

Coffee, tea…or Dali?


Soft -- and warm -- tapestry.

Soft — and warm — tapestry.


"Persistence of Memory" Simpsonized!

“Persistence of Memory” Simpsonized!


Dali's soft watches become hard.

Dali’s soft watches become hard.



Dali Celebrates Peace & Freedom: Let’s Hope for a Great 2018

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


It’s safe to say the one hope for fast-approaching 2018 that everyone would surely wish for is that peace and freedom may be as ubiquitous around our world as soft watches and tall crutches were around Dali’s surrealist world.


In homage to such a glorious goal, I invite you to take a look at a few Salvador Dali works that celebrate peace and freedom through the lens of Dali’s inimitable creative vision.


One is his “Peace Medal” of 1978, whose front image is that of two curvaceous women, each shaking hands with someone not shown except for his or her hand; and a third adult in the middle (it appears to be a male) holding a child. An angel figure is seen at right. The verso of the medal – issued in both silver and gold – reveals a double-image of a human face formed by a series of doves, bracketed by two olive branches – symbols of peace, a word seen written in a multitude of languages around the circumference.

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Now turn your attention to Dali’s magnificent “Peace Medal” created in the 1950s as part of the artist’s world-famous Art-In-Jewels – originally the 35-piece collection of the Owen Cheatham Foundation and now displayed in a special room of the Teatro-Museo Dali in Figueres, Spain. Dali described this stunning work this way:


“Across a world of lapis lazuli, four pair of hands, in prayer, each sculptured differently, form a Cross, and, with rays of gold and diamonds, reach out to all points of the earth – and beyond, into space. The Cross is the Hope for Peace for all the world.”


In my view, the concept and execution here make this jeweled masterpiece one of the most sensitive and beautiful of any works ever created by Salvador Dali. Equally beautiful was how he described the ultimate value of this incomparable collection of jeweled art:


“My collection of jewels…will be, ineluctably, of historic significance. To history, they will prove that objects of pure beauty, without utility but executed marvelously, were appreciated in a time when the primary emphasis appeared to be upon the utilitarian and the material.


“Freed of materialism and serving a philanthropic purpose,” Dali continued, “the Dali jewels are a new Ambassador for America – to Russia, to Europe, to all the world; a symbol of the cosmogonic unity of our century.”


I saw the Dali Jewels years ago in a special loan to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art in Richmond, and subsequently wrote a lengthy article with color reproductions that appeared in The Buffalo News. They completely upstaged the museum’s permanent Faberge eggs collection!


Finally, Lady Liberty got a Dalinian makeover when, in 1972, Dali took the iconic Statue of Liberty design of Frederic Bartholdi and gave it a lift – by showing both arms and torches raised in victory, titling the work “The Victory of Liberty.”

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The original stands at the Vascoeuil Castle in rural France, while a bronze copy sits atop the tourist bureau in Cadaques, Spain –a gift to the town from Dali’s original secretary/manager, Captain John Peter Moore.









Dali’s ‘Nativity of a New World’ Remains Largely a Mystery

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


If I had to name a Salvador Dali painting very few people know about; one which almost nothing has been written about; and which, in my view, is one of the most colorful, nuanced and intriguing of Dali’s oils – it would be “Nativity of a New World.”


The privately owned 14-inch x 19-inch work is seldom seen on exhibition and is not commonly shown in most books on Dali. I’ve always been struck by the relative obscurity of the work, because it’s such a wonderful canvas. It did appear in December of 1942 as an illustration for an article Dali wrote for Esquire magazine.


What always strikes me first about the painting are the rich blue and green hues that characterize most of the color palette, contrasted with the two figures in red. They, along with others in the tableau – including one shrouded prayerful figure – have gathered before what I’m presuming is meant to be the birth of a child.


The infant appears below (or is he holding up?) an intra-uterine-like transparent sphere that perhaps is representative of – as the title suggests – a new world. We can’t help but recall here Dali’s 1943 Picture, “Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man,” in the Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida.


Assembled at a kind of ramshackle altar are a supplicant man in a floppy hat, holding a lamb; another posed in a kind of religious ecstasy; and a third whose praying hands are all we see of him. Music-making angels cavort at the tenuously constructed canopy above the globe, and owes whatever stability it has to the support of Dalinian crutches.


Joining that well-known and ubiquitous Dali prop is a small cluster of ants in the lower right, plus the iconic soft watch on the short flight of stone or marble stairs. Yet another popular surrealist device is seen in the hole cut in the trunk of one of the trees in the background, continuing the spiritual aura of the painting back into the landscape.


Since this intriguing work was painted in 1942, I think we can see it as perhaps Dali’s recognition that a new world would soon be unfolding, sometime after the ongoing world war would mercifully end.


This is not your typical nativity scene. But as this blog post appears on Christmas Eve, 2017, it seems fitting that the mystery of “Nativity of a New World” occupy the spotlight today.


Happy holidays – happy Dalidays – to all!


Dali's study for "Nativity" seems to exude a more obviously religious aura.

Dali’s study for “Nativity” seems to exude a more obviously religious aura.



Dali’s ‘Trinity’ Especially Meaningful this Time of Year

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Given the real reason for the season, let’s today look at Salvador Dali’s wonderful – and unusual – “The Trinity,” which was an oil study for “The Ecumenical Council,” both works created in 1960.


“The Trinity,” while a preparatory study for the much, much larger “Ecumenical Council,” in the permanent collection of the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, is itself of museum quality. Indeed, it can be found in the permanent art collection of Vatican City in Rome.


"The Ecumenical Council" hangs in Dali Museum in Florida.

“The Ecumenical Council” hangs in Dali Museum in Florida.


There is, in my view, a paradox of sorts in the way Dali treated the three figures of the Trinity: God the Father in the top center, Jesus Christ at left, holding a cross; and the Holy Spirit at right. Normally any image of God would, in theory, be the least distinct of the Trinity figures, since no one really knows quite what the Creator looks like – and that is by design.


Yet, in Dali’s view of it all, God is clearly distinct in body, while his face is shielded, just as it is in the finished masterwork. Contrasting with the relatively tight rendering of God is the far looser, sketchier technique seen in the Christ and Holy Ghost images.


This approach nodded in two distinct directions: the nuclear age, with atomic particles whizzing through space; and the close-up brushwork technique seen in the details of some of the paintings of Spanish master Diego Velazquez, whom Dali considered his all-time favorite artist and greatest influence.


Interesting enough, all three figures in the study appear remarkably similar to those in the “Ecumenical Council.” Notable differences, however, would be that Dali rendered facial features of Christ and the Holy Spirit. And, while male genitalia is obvious in the study of God, that anatomical region is fully obscured in the final painting. A dove appears over the head of the Holy Spirit, but is absent in the study.


More so than in the final canvas, the figures’ robes in the study look very much like the rocky outcropping in the lower portion of the Dali Museum work.


Of course, the major difference between the study and the 118-inch x 100-inch painting is Dali’s wonderful self-portrait in the latter. When I was publicity director of the original Dali Museum in Beachwood, Ohio, near Cleveland, I remember a lecture about this painting, delivered by Eleanor R. Morse. She, along with her husband Reynolds, owned the collection and went on to become the benefactors of the collection now permanently housed in St. Pete, Florida.


Dali's "3-D" self-portrait at bottom of "Ecumenical Council."

Dali’s “3-D” self-portrait at bottom of “Ecumenical Council.”

Eleanor was talking about Dali’s then-current work with holograms, and opined that Dali had, in effect, already achieved the illusion of three-dimensionality in the way his right hand seems to project from the canvas in “The Ecumenical Council.”


The Master painting "Ecumenical Council."

The Master painting “Ecumenical Council.”




Dali in 3-D!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


We generally don’t think of Salvador Dali as a sculptor or a creator of assemblages. Instead, Dali was a painter. A print maker. A watercolorist. A writer and performance artist. But sculpture or other three-dimensional objet d’ art aren’t readily identified with the art of Dali.


Contrasting with such generalities, however, is a very specific work that went on to become one of the most recognizable creations by Salvador Dali: his “Retrospective Bust of a Woman” of 1933.


Ironically, while the work is not a painting, it is arguably one of the works most emblematic of Dalinian surrealism. It seems to me to be neither ugly nor attractive – but it’s definitely surreal!


The porcelain bust with its bare chest is bright-eyed and fine-featured. But then there’s those pesky, ubiquitous Dali ants swarming about her cheek, forehead, lips and chin. They’re a symbol of decay. The baguette’s decay was apparently effectively retarded by generous layers of lacquer, and its symmetrical arc more or less finds an echo in the corn cobs dangling around the lady’s neck. An encircling zoetrope – an early cinematic toy – serves as a kind of choker. (Re-creations of this work were rendered in later years, primarily due to the ultimately unavoidable decomposition of the baguette.)


This seems to be a woman objectified. And edible!


Probably the most significant aspect of “Retrospective Bust of a Woman,” found atop the bread loaf, is the bronze reproduction of the painting, “The Angelus,” by French painter Jean-Francois Millet. Dali had a cornucopia of obsessions that he expressed in his work. Probably none was as omnipresent as his relentless preoccupation with this 1859 painting by Millet, located in the Musee d’ Orsay in Paris.


Dali saw the female figure in the Millet painting as sort of channeling the predatory nature of the female praying mantis, which devours her mate after copulation. What’s more, Dali always saw the couple leaning over the basket in prayer as actually mourning their deceased child, and an X-ray of the work by the Louvre – undertaken after Dali  voiced this suspicion – reportedly showed that Millet had originally painted a box-like form looking very much like a small coffin, which he later painted over in the form of a basket.


The number of Dali prints, paintings and drawings that feature this “Angelus” reference is almost incalculable. Even as late as 1978, the indomitable presence of the “Angelus” woman appeared in Salvador Dali’s pointillist canvas, “Dawn, Noon, Sunset and Twilight.” The ink well symbolizes males and female, with the pen and well representing both sexes, respectively.


Dali described surrealist sculpture as “created wholly for the purpose of materializing in a fetishistic way, with maximum tangible reality, ideas and fantasies of a delirious character.”


I think “Retrospective Bust of a Woman” occupies an important page in the catalog of Salvador Dali’s vast body of work, along with several other 3-D works, which I expect to discuss in future blog posts here, exclusively for The Salvador Dali Society, Inc. at




Dali Never Drove, But He Got Around in Style!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Very shortly, a larger-than-life character-hero traverses the globe in a rather unlikely vehicle – a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Salvador Dali – our own brand of character-hero – never got a driver’s license. But he managed to get around in a variety of conveyances – including one of his own invention.

 That would be his Ovocipede, which he created and presented to the world, in Paris, France, in 1959. It was to be a new means of locomotion, and it seems it was inspired by Dali’s oft-discussed memories of the paradise-like nature of his vivid intra-uterine memories.


Egg-like, "intra-uterine," and ready to roll!

Egg-like, “intra-uterine,” and ready to roll!


The transparent sphere, fashioned of plastic, was occupant-propelled – no motors or engines, thank you very much. Instead, the operator would run along on the inside track like a caged hamster on a wheel. Explained one description: “Dali claimed it could be rolled over land, water, ice or snow. The operator stands and holds the two hand bars on the axis, or can sit on the seat to coast. Steering is managed by shifting the weight along the axis in the direction of the turn. The driver turns around to reverse.”


To my knowledge, this “vehicle” never rolled on beyond a one-off prototype. You can bet, however, that it served as a great photo-op for the master of performance art. And another example of his constantly propelled imagination and inimitable sense of creative innovation.


Since we’re talking vehicles, let’s look at some other means of travel Salvador Dali chose. As noted, he never drove himself. I think most would agree Dali was simply too disconnected with the practical side of life to be steady and trusted enough to operate heavy equipment! Geniuses often have difficulty with things most of us take for granted.


With winter here, let’s look at a photo of Dali being spirited around New York’s Central Park in a horse-drawn sleigh. He’s accompanied by Gala – and a firearm! Just why Dali was pointing a (toy?) gun at someone is unclear – a playful move that would be very politically incorrect in today’s social climate.


Armed but not dangerous!

Armed but not dangerous!


The photo of Dali and Gala in a taxi here reminds me of what the artist once said about his fame. He noted that, for example, if artist Joan Miro were spotted in a taxi, no one would recognize him. But with Dali, people constantly exclaimed, “Look! Look! It’s Salvador Dali!” His mustache needed to take a bow, for sure.

Catalan in a cab.

Catalan in a cab.


While Dali never drove an automobile, he had no aversion to bicycling. And his pose on a motorcycle is a classic, as it was with his surreal idea: a grass-covered Volkswagen!

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Fishing boats were an everyday fixture at Port Lligat, Spain, and we see Dali here, relaxed upon the bay. Bigger boats, to be sure, ferried Dali, Gala, Capt. Peter Moore – even Dali’s pet ocelot – to and from America on the SS France and SS America.

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Dali was often paraded through the streets as the conquering hero, and sometimes these grand chariots took on elephantine characteristics!


Dali riding high!

Dali riding high!


Finally, in a flight of promotional fancy, a jetliner was painted with a Dali mustache and related information when the remarkable “Dali: The Late Work” exhibition soared to high-flying attendance results at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2010 – 2011. And late in life, Dali finally got over his fear of flying.

Coffee, tea -- or Dali?

Coffee, tea — or Dali?