Author Archives: Paul Chimera


Salvador Dali’s Bryan Hosiery Art is Sheer Delight!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Salvador Dali had one of the greatest one-liners ever in justifying his undeniable commercialism that developed on the heels of his worldwide artistic fame. Said Dali: “Most people work so they can make money; I make money so I can work!”


What the Surrealist master meant, of course, was that the large sums of money he was paid to execute commercial commissions allowed him the time and the freedom to pursue his real job: creating great art.



The irony of it all, though, was that some of Salvador Dali’s truly remarkable art – highly creative and flawlessly executed – was done with a paint brush in one hand and a  fat paycheck in the other! That a work of art may have been inspired by money rather than muse really didn’t matter; some of Dali’s best work happened to have been done for commercial purposes.


And while his fellow Surrealists charged that he was interested more in profit and less in art, Dali jumped undaunted into an arena that would help make him wealthy – and, in my view, not compromise his creativity one bit.


Dali’s genius at both creating mind-blowing art and at scandalizing (note that “dali” is right in the middle of the word “scandalize”!), ensured a steady stream of merchants waiting in line to hire him to promote their wares. A short list of companies would include De Beers Diamonds, S.C. Johnson and Sons, Hallmark, Sringbok Editions (American puzzle manufacturer), Desert Flower Perfume, Alka-Seltzer, Lanvin Chocolates (Paris), Toyota, Branif Airlines – and, of course, Bryan Hosiery (EW Bryan, Leicester, Great Britain).



Dali’s mid-1940s print magazine advertisements for Bryan Hosiery are simply some of the most intricate and inventive works to ever spring from the man’s wickedly wonderful mind.


The stunning series of Bryan Hosiery ads Dali designed drew upon some familiar elements seen in his paintings, from soft watches to unicorns, crawling ants to towering crutches, equestrian scenes to butterflies, sky-tall cypress trees to crumbling clock towers.


All of it, of course, was aimed at showcasing women’s hosiery, and it’s safe to say that this feminine apparel has never before or since been promoted in so remarkable a fashion. I have no idea how well Dali’s reputation and imagination helped capture the imagination of consumers; I cannot speak for the effectiveness of the ad series in selling nylons.






But I can say with certainty that Dali’s Bryan Hosiery ads remain some of his most interesting work. I recall seeing one of them – which employed mixed-media, including collage – at the big Dali retrospective in Montreal in, I think, 1990. It was something of a show-stopper, what with its minute detail and imaginative tableau artfully designed to present hosiery in a dreamlike setting that doubtlessly spoke to its target audience.



And that was the point, wasn’t it. To help sell a product. But I wonder if Bryan Hosiery had any idea at the time that this remarkable series would go on to become an iconic representation of some of Dali’s most masterfully done works. Most are pictured here – sheer delight, to be sure!








The Shoes and Symbolism of Dali’s ‘Original Sin’

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


One of the most surprisingly simple and tranquil paintings by Salvador Dali – while at the same time one that’s puzzled and confounded many Dali enthusiasts – is his interesting little oil on canvas, “Original Sin,” painted in 1941.

imatgeCopyright Gala-Dali Foundation


The work is technically brilliant, really showing off Salvador Dali’s consummate draftsmanship. Look at the way he handled the veins in the woman’s foot. And the textured nuances of the old, worn pair of shoes. And the bejeweled, serpentine ankle bracelet: Dali realism at its finest.


The sterile background seems to leave something to be desired, one might claim. However, when we consider the symbolism in this work, the sort of blank slate backdrop makes perfect sense.


According to author Kristen Bradbury, in her book, Essential Dali, shoes for Dali “represented sin, based on the idea of the foot being the starting point of all sin.” Thus, it’s as if Dali were starting from a position of nothing – a sort of barren Garden of Eden. No cypress trees or craggy landscapes or any other creatures or outcroppings. Just an essentially empty space, save for the beautifully executed shoes and the temptress’s lovingly painted foot with its life-like adornment.

My astute friend and fellow Dali scholar Dr. Elliott King reminds me that the ankle jewelry in “Original Sin” is the same one gracing the wrist of Gala in the stunning 1944 “Galarina,” also in the collection of the Teatro-Museo Dali in Spain.


‘And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (God talking to snake)*


That shoes should occupy front and center here accords with Dali’s undeniable fetishistic interest in them; he incorporated shoes in a host of paintings, drawings, and objects. A short list would include “Cannibalism of Objects – Woman’s Head with Shoe” (1937); Paranoiac Metamorphosis of Gala’s Face” (1932); “The Sense of Speed” (1934); his iconic shoe hat for fashion icon Elsa Schiaparelli; and the sculpture, “Scatological Object Functioning Symbolically (The Surrealist Shoe)” of 1931.







Invariably, Dali’s works made direct or indirect references to other artists, most especially those he most revered: Velazquez, Vermeer, and Raphael — in that order of importance to Dali. But there were certainly many other great artists Dali admired, emulated, or otherwise nodded to in his paintings, drawings, watercolors, prints, and objects.


Dali undoubtedly pondered the scruffy boots of Van Gogh (seen here) when he was intellectually preoccupied with his “Original Sin” canvas.

Footwear by VanGogh

Footwear by VanGogh


What stands out for me, when considering the present Dali painting, is how the Surrealist master’s mind went in so many directions. He was unpredictable, to be sure; one never quite knew just what would end up on his easel. In a period when Dali was creating some of the most Freudian-informed pictures in the annals of Surrealism, he delivers a lovely little oil like “Original Sin,” one of the many gems in the Teatro-Museo Dali in Figueres, Spain.

[Bible reference contributed by Dr. Elliott King]






Dali's rarely seen, ghostly "Spectre"

Dali’s ‘Spectre’ Painting Little Known, Ideal for Halloween!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


One of the most exciting things for me in this lifelong Dali adventure is encountering never-before or seldom seen works by the Surrealist master. It’s almost like the sublime feeling a scientist must get when the archaeological dig he or she is on suddenly turns up an ancient artifact of startling significance.


Today I’m focusing on an early Salvador Dali painting that was reproduced only in black & white in the big DALI book by Descharnes & Neret – Dali, The Paintings – which has unofficially come to be considered the catalog raisone of Dali oil paintings.


Otherwise, to my knowledge, it was never seen in any popular, English-language book on Dali, until it came up in color in the beautiful catalog produced for the big Dali retrospective held at the George Pompidou Center in Paris November 21, 2012 – March 25, 2013, after which it moved on to the Museo Nacional Centra de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid.


The picture is “Spectre,” painted in 1934, a very fertile time in Dali’s surrealist period, in which a number of other important Dali paintings invite comparison to it.

Dali's rarely seen, ghostly "Spectre"

Dali’s rarely seen, ghostly “Spectre”


While many of Salvador Dali’s works are dreamlike and often pinned on his personal mythology, not all that many are necessarily what I would call “haunting.” But with Halloween just around the corner, I think the little-known “Spectre” – 27.5 inches x 23.5 inches – unquestionably qualifies as haunting and spooky.


There is great ambiguity in the central figure, eerily cloaked, sporting what appears to be a skull on its head. It’s holding, or at least juxtaposed with what looks simultaneously like a mirror and the face of a clock. The ghostly aura to it all accords with the work’s title and certainly presents us with an evocative image to ponder.


Meanwhile, the other figure embodies elements from at least four other well-known Dali paintings, and below it, the birds hovering above a barren ground recall Dali’s “Javanese Mannequin” (Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida), painted the same year as “Spectre” and somewhat haunting in its own right.

Javanese Mannequin

Javanese Mannequin


The impossibly elongated leg of the kneeling figure, on which a wine bottle and glass rest, was seen the same year, 1934, in Dali’s dandy little oil, “The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft, Which Can be Used as a Table,” also in the Florida Dali Museum.

Ghost of Vermeer of Delft

Ghost of Vermeer of Delft


The sacks in the shoulder and abdominal area of the kneeling figure are seen almost identically in Dali’s tiny jewel-like canvas, “The Specter of Sex Appeal” – one of the finest works in the Teatro-Museo Dali in Figueres, Spain.

Spectre of Sex Appeal

Spectre of Sex Appeal


Meanwhile, the “head” here of potted flowers would essentially be seen the next year when Dali created the important Surrealist painting, “Woman with Head of Roses” (1935, Kunsthaus Zurich, Zurich).

Woman with Head of Roses

Woman with Head of Roses


The knife cutting into the buttocks area of the kneeling figure in “Spectre” finds an echo in “Autumn Cannibalism” of 1936 (Tate Gallery, London).

Autumnal Cannibalism 1936 Salvador Dal? 1904-1989 Purchased 1975

Autumn Cannibalism


The privately owned “Spectre” ironically melds images from some five other, well-known Dali paintings, yet itself has pretty much remained under the radar for many decades. With Halloween creeping closer, it seems to me Dali’s “Spectre” needs to be dusted off and hung right beside all those nooses and skeletons and other sooky props we’ll soon be encountering on the scariest night of the year!





Sex on the beach?

Dali gave us ‘Sex on the Beach’ in 1926 Picasso-inspired Work

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Salvador Dali called Pablo Picasso his “artistic father,” and the elder Spaniard’s influence on some of Dali’s early work is undeniable – such as in the subject of today’s blog post: the small, approx. 8 inch by 11 inch “Figures Lying on the Sand” of 1926.


Sex on the beach?

Sex on the beach?


Not only did Picasso paint “The Bathers” and several similar works that invite comparison to the Dali painting, but clearly Picasso’s Cubism is readily seen in the style in which Dali has formed the robust reclining female figures.


“This work must have been inspired by Dali’s visit to Picasso’s Paris studio, the impact the visit had on him along with his expulsion the same year from the Fine Art School of San Fernando in Madrid, representing a change in Dalinian work and the beginning of innovative aesthetic paths,” notes the painting’s owner – the Teatro-Museo Dali in Figueres, Spain.


But something it seems no one has acknowledged is the fairly overt sexual nature of this work. At age 22, it’s pretty safe to say Salvador had normal, healthy urges. That his libido was amped up as one would expect.


Dali’s erotic mind communicated directly with the guidance of his brush strokes, and there is no doubt that the hands of the two reclining women at left are quite purposely placed as they are. These are not merely figures lying on a beach, seeking a sun tan, dear reader. These are women in the act of self-pleasuring, their heads tilted back in obvious ecstasy, their inhibitions checked at the door, both seeking something in addition to a good tan!


While Salvador Dali unapologetically tossed the normally very private act of masturbation onto canvases like his well-known “The Great Masturbator” of 1929, obviously a focus on this form of human sexuality appeared well before that in Dali’s oeuvre, as the present work attests.


And while self-stimulation was almost exclusively centered on Dali’s own desires and conduct, we now see, in “Figures Lying on the Sand,” that what’s good for the goose is indeed also good for the gander!


If we were to cite four major influences or themes in the art of Salvador Dali, they would undoubtedly be these: the landscape of his native Spanish countryside; his wife Gala; the inevitability and tragedy of death; and, to be sure, the sexual instinct.


All four themes pervaded virtually all of Dali’s works throughout his remarkable career.






Polyhedron: capturing the third dimension.

Holography was ‘New House of Creation’ for Dali

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


In the early 1970s, just when I thought Salvador Dali couldn’t top the amazing works he was creating at the easel, along came an article in TIME magazine that literally knocked me on my gluteus maximus.


I was introduced to an utterly new phenomenon – holography – and how Salvador Dali was the first major artist to leverage this breakthrough technology for fine art purposes.


Accompanying the TIME story, headlined “Dali in 3D,” was a black & white image of his hologram, “Polyhedron – Basketball Players Being Transformed into Angels.”

Polyhedron: capturing the third dimension.

Polyhedron: capturing the third dimension.


Now, this will sound as inane as it does naïve, but – completely inexpert on the how’s and why’s of holography – I literally believed Dali had achieved a true third-dimension on a flat surface, without the aid of any optical devices.


The strange shape of the polyhedron and the distorted images of the basketball players as seen in the TIME article had me believing that, somehow, the great Salvador Dali had done it! He had actually figured out a way to have his painted images extend from his canvas. Again, using only his brushes, paints, and imagination! Crazy, I know.



However, as I came to understand what Dali was doing at this time, I grew more knowledgeable and sophisticated – but no less blown away by what Dali was exploring for the first time in history.


“All artists,” said Dali, “have been concerned with three dimensional reality since the time of Velasquez, and in modern times, the analytic cubism of Picasso tried again to capture the three dimensions of Velasquez. Now,” Dali continued, “with the genius of (Dr. Dennis) Gabor, the possibility of a new Renaissance in art has been realized with the use of holography. The doors have been opened for me into a new house of creation.”


That new house of creation took up residence for a time at the Knoedler Gallery in New York City, a long-since defunct gallery that was Dali’s exclusive New York exhibition venue for years. I had the special opportunity to privately tour that show, which included the hand-painted “Polyhedron” master, as well as several other holograms, one involving a crystal grotto and a deep sea diving helmet with adjoining outfit.


This was many years ago and my memory of it is murky. But I do recall how, for the first time, thanks to the technology underpinning holography, Salvador Dali works were now being expressed with a true 3D effect. Crude by today’s holographic capabilities, but unprecedented and innovative in their day.

Dali did a cylindrical hologram of musician Alice Cooper's brain.

Dali did a cylindrical hologram of musician Alice Cooper’s brain.


In Dali’s own description of “Polyhedron”: “Holographic view of a room in the Museum of Dali in Figueras, containing the double portrait of Gala, basketball players in the process of becoming angels painted in the facets of a giant polyhedron, and a terrestrial glove on which are pinned Figueras in Spain and Cleveland in America, places where the two Dali museums exist.”


Shortly after Dali delved into holograms, he opened the door to yet another new house of creation – using an old concept but cutting-edge optics technology: stereoscopic paintings. Many in much larger scale than the relatively small hologram works.


Dali’s artistic mind was never far from the latest in modern science, especially when it involved optical phenomena.



Striking simplicity.

Dali Portrait of Gala Completely Devoid of ‘Shenanigans’

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Salvador Dali’s unpredictability was an undeniable part of his appeal.


What would the “divine Dali” do next, we often wondered? What astonishment would emerge from his easel? What controversial new work was going to make worldwide headlines tomorrow? How would he shock us today?


So it must have come as a surprise to much of the art world when the splendid “Gala Nude, Seen From Behind” emerged from the studio of the eccentric, surrealist master and “clown prince of art” in 1960. This superb painting is possibly the single most straight-forward work of Dali’s career. Not a flicker of funny business here. Not a shard of shenanigans. Not a sliver of Surrealism.


Instead, the then-56-year-old Dali gave us a remarkable portrait of his wife Gala – one that demonstrates his astounding technical skill. From his subject’s detailed coiffure to the tactile quality of her skin to the exactitude of the sheeting, with its realistic folds and shadows, this is without doubt one of the most striking portraits by any artist of the 20th century.

Striking simplicity.

Striking simplicity.


It’s further evidence that Salvador Dali was a brilliant draftsman/technician while advancing some of the most mind-boggling and innovative ideas the art world had ever seen.


So what was the idea behind Gala’s pose in this work, which is owned by the Teatro-Museo Dali in Figheres, Spain? She seems clearly to have her gaze purposely fixed on…something. Something unseen. Something out of our view. Something invisible, yet clearly commanding her attention.


Alas, while the title is generally noted as “Gala Nude, Seen From Behind,” the Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali in Figueres, Spain, proffers a far more intriguing and perhaps more fitting title: “Gala From Behind, Looking in an Invisible Mirror.”


It’s certainly more fitting from the point of view of how Dali titled so many of his works – in a manner that often left us nonplussed. The “Invisible Mirror” title certainly changes things up some!


And there’s that unpredictability thing again. Is it a mirror Gala is looking up at, which simply is out of view to us? Was there ever a mirror in the first place?


In any case, it appears to account for the fixed gaze Gala adopted here, almost as if she was anticipating something that’s about to command her attention, as she posed for her artist husband.


How interesting that most of the early portraits Salvador Dali painted of his sister, Ana Maria, were rear views – and in this iconic portrait of Gala, Dali again paints his subject from behind.


One thing is certain. When people not especially familiar with Salvador Dali ask, “Isn’t he the artist who painted those droopy clocks?”, we can reply with assurance: “Oh, he was that guy, all right – and so much more.”

Ascensionist Saint Cecilia of 1955

It was Rhino Horns Gone Wild during Dali’s ‘Atomic’ Era!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


When Salvador Dali got an idea in his head, he was often obsessive about it – obsessive to the point of a kind of mania. This passion for what he found indispensable in carrying out his quest to be the best artist of his time was evidenced in, among other things, his focus on rhinoceros horns.


“I see rhinoceros!” became an iconic line in the 2011 Woody Allen movie, “Midnight in Paris,” in which the character of Salvador Dali – played by Adrien Brody – continuously uttered those words to the amusement and consternation of those around him. It was vintage Dali: seemingly a bit crazy, but of course not really crazy at all.


Dali was crazy about rhino horns for the reason oft-noted in this blog: it was one of the few naturally occurring instances where one could find the perfect logarithmic curve or spiral. This mathematical principle fascinated Dali to no end. He incorporated it and other mathematic principles into the rigor with which all of his artistic compositions were imbued.


Sometimes he seemed to go a bit overboard with this logarithmic eccentricity. One case of that observation might be found in the 1955 oil on canvas, “Ascensionist Saint Cecilia,” one of the little gems in the Teatro-Museo Dali in Dali’s birthplace of Figueres, Spain.

Ascensionist Saint Cecilia of 1955

Ascensionist Saint Cecilia of 1955


The evanescent and hallucinatory figure of Saint Cecilia – patroness of musicians – can barely be discerned through the maelstrom of gray rhino horns that invade the full width and breadth of this 2 ft. 8 in. x 2 ft. 2 in. canvas. It borders on the outrageous, one could argue, since it seems Dali’s obsession with the horn’s significance has been taken to a point of distraction, if not irrationality. (I’ve included a close-up of Saint Cecilia; ignore the inexplicable mouse cartoon at lower right).

cecilia detail

But who are we to question the Divine Dali? I might defend Dali here – not that he needs defending – by pointing out that it is this kind of twist or difference that sets everything Salvador Dali did apart from anything else painted before it, contemporaneously with it, or since his domination of 20th century art.


“It is a composition with a great spatial expansion, with the volumetric spirals creating a three-dimensional effect,” notes a published report on the picture by the Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation in Spain. “A concentric work,” the Foundation continued, “in which the chromatism is focused on the image of the saint, which exploded into golden particles….”


This explosion of rhino horns virtually swarming the work found expression in several other important Dali’s painted around this time in the mid-1950s, including “Saint Surrounded by Three Pi-Mesons”, “Anti-Protonic Assumption,” and “Blue Horns” – the latter a design for a scarf.


Here are just a few images that scream, “I see rhinoceros!” . . .











Part-surreal, part-classic

Dali’s ‘Napoleon’s Nose’ on Edge of Surreal and Classical

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Sometimes the myriad ideas that must have been colliding constantly in Salvador Dali’s mind at any given time found an echo in certain of his paintings that featured a disparate and dizzying array of thoughts, reflections, obsessions, and fetishes.


And while the titles of many Dali paintings were almost annoyingly inscrutable, others pointed unambiguously to what was in store for us. This latter case is well exemplified in an extraordinary oil on canvas of 1945 called “Napoleon’s Nose, Transformed into a Pregnant Woman, Strolling his Shadow with Melancholia Among Original Ruins” (Teatro-Museo Dali, Figueres, Spain).


Part-surreal, part-classic

Part-surreal, part-classical

This strange work, which the Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali describes as “meticulously painted,” was created at a pivotal time in Dali’s career: he was just about to abandon his purely surrealistic style while on the cusp of his classical period, the latter portending a very different way of interpreting his thoughts and observations.


Most typical and traditional in “Napoleon’s Nose” – traditional from surrealist Dali’s point of view, that is – was the double-image, a device to which Dali was devoted from his surrealist period through his post-surrealist, Nuclear-Mystical phase and beyond.


Here we see, as the title tells us, a woman seen through an archway, ambling along a barren stretch of land, behind which mountains appear that transform themselves into the eyes of Napoleon Bonaparte, while the woman’s form outlines his nose, and broken tree branches become his lips. This negative-space image of the French emperor, military and political leader is repeated in a more positively formed bust in the middle foreground.


This double-image is surrounded by an undulating art nouveau structure sprouting elongated appendages supported by crutches – one such structure decidedly phallic in nature. These phallic like protuberances find an echo in the seductively writhing female figure at right, whose bright red glove (she’s wearing only one) matches her red footwear.


In a 1945 Bignou Gallery (New York) catalog of a Dali exhibition in which this painting was featured, it was noted in Dali’s words that the work was completed after three weeks’ time, working on it two hours a day. He pointed out that the title fully explained the painting, and it’s hard to argue with that statement – and surprising that Dali was so accommodating.


The Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali in Figueres, Spain, notes in a book about the Dali Theatre-Museum, that “Napoleon’s Nose” is “…absolutely structured, with perfect geometries. The painting is exuberant, full of nuances and iconographic references: Napoleon, architecture, the double image, crutches, the Emporda region…and totally theatrical. It is a surrealist work in the Dalinian way, with wide and desolate spaces and almost academic Freudian symbols.”

Why Napoleon? Perhaps a clue is found in the opening line of Dali’s autobiography: “At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since.”









Colossus of Rhodes

Salvador Dali’s ‘Gigantic’ Surrealism!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Today’s generously illustrated blog post is gigantic. I mean literally huge, because I want to talk about Dali paintings in which a towering presence looms large. There are lots of them.


Why is this important?


Well, Salvador Dali was a master on many levels. One of them was his uncanny use of space and perspective to evoke different perceptions of space and time. Sometimes simply the sheer size of the predominant figure in a Dali painting or print lent enormous impact to the work, serving to grab our attention as well as convey various emotions.


A good example is “Corpus Hypercubus.” Look at the size of the body of Christ compared to Mary Magdalene’s.

Corpus Hypercubus

Corpus Hypercubus


To say it is a towering and transcendent figure is an understatement. And the size of Christ really adds a greater sense of awe to this stunning 1954 masterpiece, which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


While “Corpus Hypercubus” stands some 7 feet tall, a small canvas – “Collosus of Rhodes” (about 2 ft. 3 in. x 1 foot 3 in.), painted the same year – nevertheless manages to give us the impression that it’s much larger than it is, thanks to proportion – pitting the enormity of the statue, depicting the Greek island of Rhodes’ patron god Helios (the god of the sun) – against the dwarfed figures below.


Colossus of Rhodes

Colossus of Rhodes


The similarly named “El Coloso” (“The Giant”) is dominated by precisely what its title suggests, representing Spain and the various icons to which the imposing behemoth is metaphorically giving birth.


El Coloso

El Coloso


Speaking of Spain, Dali employed a huge, contorted self-destructing figure in “Soft Construction with Boiled Beans; Premonition of Civil War” (1936) to symbolize the Spanish Civil War as a country devouring itself. This work is often compared with the giant featured in an important painting by the Spanish master Francisco Goya: “Colossus” of 1808 -1812.

Soft Construction with Boiled Beans

Soft Construction with Boiled Beans


Goya's Collosus

Goya’s Collosus


Grandeur characterizes the huge and majestic rearing steed in “Santiago El Grande” (1957), in comparison with which the cloaked figured of Gala Dali at lower right, and a man lolling on the middle ground below, are diminutive.


Santiago El Grande

Santiago El Grande


Likewise, the horse, elephants and other elements in “The Temptation of St. Anthony” serve to create a kind of soaring space in which St. Anthony vows to resist the seduction of sin.


The Temptation of St. Anthony

The Temptation of St. Anthony


One of the great prints in Dali’s famed illustrations for Dante’s “Divine Comedy” is “A Logician devil – Lucifer,” whose huge presence is both human and mountain-like in form.

Divine Comedy print

Divine Comedy print


And there are many other Dali works that feature giant-like figures evoking a sense of ascension, infinity and endless depth. An additional short list would include “The Hallucinogenic Toreador,” “Celestial Ride,” “The Specter of Sex Appeal” “The Elephants,” design for the set of “Labyrinth,” “Cosmic Athlete,” “Palace of the Winds” and “Architectural Reminiscence of Millet’s Angelus.”


Large or small, Salvador Dali paintings, prints, drawings, watercolors, and sculpture remain huge in the minds and hearts of Dali art collectors worldwide. Indeed, we’re witnessing continuing growth in Salvador Dali’s popularity as more people discover the enormity of his genius.




Dali’s ‘Apotheosis of the Dollar’ a Montage of Myths and Mysteries

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


One of Salvador Dali’s largest and most complex paintings also boasts one of his most verbose titles: “Salvador Dali in the Act of Painting Gala in the Apotheosis of the Dollar in Which You Can See on the Left Marcel Duchamp Masquerading as Louis XIV behind a Vermeerian Curtain Which Actually Is the Invisible but Monumental Face of ‘Hermes’ by Praxiteles.”


Phew…time to come up for air!


Like another of Dali’s large canvases – known more tersely as “The Perpignan Railway Station” – this 1965 masterwork is better known as “Apotheosis of the Dollar,” and occupies a special, cordoned-off enclave in the Teatro-Museo Dali in Figueres, Spain. It used to be owned by Dali’s first secretary, Capt. Peter Moore and was shown in the Spanish pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair.


It seems Dali has put everything into this unusually complicated, even perhaps overly busy, 9 ft. x 13 ft. canvas. Perhaps for the first time anywhere, today’s blog shows pictorially some of the many references that informed this extraordinary picture.


Pop and op art were in vogue at the time, so Dali employed a moiré pattern throughout much of the central area of the canvas. The large undulating columns – which Dali has configured to look like dollar signs – were traced onto the canvas with the aid of a back-lighting system that can be seen in the upper-left photo here, taken from a magazine feature. You can also see a male model posing for the image of Hermes by the sculptor Praxiteles.

Dali back-lit the canvas in order to trace tall columns

Dali back-lit the canvas in order to trace tall columns


The helix form of these tall columns is a clear nod to the double-helix structure of the DNA molecule, to which Dali paid homage two years earlier in his large “Homage to Crick and Watson” (Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida).


Here’s what the Gala-Dali Foundation in Spain writes about “Apotheosis of the Dollar”; I’ve threaded relevant images throughout their description:


“In this canvas, just as in his Theatre-Museum, Dali reflects all the tendencies, myths and obsessions that accompanied him throughout his life….Duchamp on the left-hand side dressed as Louis XIV with Watteau’s lute player over his head:

Watteau's "Lute Player"

Watteau’s “Lute Player”


Jose Nieto, the Queen’s quartermaster of Las Meninas, who appears as many as three times.

Jose Nieto from "Las Meninas" by Velazquez

Jose Nieto from “Las Meninas” by Velazquez


Beside Duchamp-Louis XIV, the profile of Hermes by Praxiteles, who has the figure of Goethe in the shadow of its nose, and in the corner of its mouth, the portrait of Vermeer de Delft.

Hermes by Praxiteles

Hermes by Praxiteles


“On the right-hand side, Dali paints himself, like Velazquez, in the act of painting Gala, at whose side appears the double image of Dante’s Beatriz, who is, at the same time, a kneeling Quixote. Above, we can see Napoleon’s defeated armies, while in the top left-hand corner we can make out the soldiers of the Battle of Tetuan in full force (reminiscences of Meissonier in some and of Fortuny in others).”


On part of the dollar sign image are the words Non plus ultra (“Nothing further beyond”). This, according to Wikipedia, was said to have been inscribed as a warning on the Pillars of Hercules at the Strait of Gibraltar, which marked the edge of the known world.

Pillars of Hercules

Pillars of Hercules

Charles adopted the motto following the discovery of the New World by Columbus, and it also has metaphorical suggestions of taking risks and striving for excellence.