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The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft, Which Can Be Used as a Table (1934), The Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Fl.

The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft may be a near-perfect example of what Salvador Dali was about. And I’d honestly forgotten how tiny this wonderful canvas is, until I saw it just this past Saturday at the new-and-improved Dali Museum in St. Petersburg.

This bizarre and whimsical little jewel is, first and foremost, painted with a precision worthy of Johannes Vermeer himself (1632-1675) – one of Dali’s all-time favorite Masters, who is paid tribute to in this canvas. The figure is reminiscent of a self-portrait Vermeer painted, seated at his easel; in the present case, the ghostly Vermeer-like incarnation is kneeling along a lane leading to Port Lligat, Spain, Dali’s and Gala’s home for virtually all their lives. This very spot can actually be found in Port Lligat, and, in fact, a photo of Dali was taken by Reynolds Morse, showing Dali kneeling in a manner that attempts to mimic the kneeling figure in the painting (except, of course, for the dismembered foot!). Dali once described Vermeer as “the authentic painter of specters.”

In addition to the painstaking technique that makes this tiny work glow from within, just like the delicately painted works of the Flemish Master, Dali has given it an obvious surrealist twist with the gross and amusing elongation of the man’s leg – which, as the title tells us, has now also conveniently become a table! A bottle of wine and glass await guests.

Dali’s unique symbolism and mythology are evident in the crutch holding the spectral figure’s limp right wrist. Crutches have been interpreted as a symbol of death and resurrection, in the present case perhaps suggesting that Dali wishes to revive the deceased Dutch painter – and, in effect, he has in this 20th century surrealistic tribute to him.

Finally, the mountainous landscape in the distance and the stone and brick walls remind us of what an enormous influence Dali’s countryside had on his art. While some people have presumed the landscapes and seascapes in Dali’s pictures were simply products of his fertile imagination, they in fact were – in virtually every case – literal transcriptions of what Salvador Dali actually observed daily in Port Lligat, Spain. A locale he proclaimed to be the most beautiful place in the world.


on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 at 11:20 pm and is filed under Dalinian. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.