Did Dali’s Iconic ‘Fried Eggs’ Start Sizzling in the 1600s?
By Paul Chimera
Salvador Dali Historian
I can’t say so with absolute certainty. But today I believe I’m revealing an undetected fact of Dalinian iconography that has never before been reported in any book or magazine or any other media about history’s greatest Surrealist: Salvador Dali.
Risking melodrama, this might qualify as breaking news or a news flash. I say “might,” because I cannot be positive the parallel you’re about to read between a well-known trope in Salvador Dali’s surrealist works and an Old Master has not been brought to light before.
If it has, I’ve never known of it. So, unless shown otherwise, I’m sticking to my story: you’re reading it here first, at the Salvador Dali Society, Inc. (dali.com).
My most recent blog post dealt with the Dutch artist Vermeer, whom Dali passionately admired and to whom he paid tribute in a number of important surrealist paintings, drawings, prints and other works.
I’d noted that Vermeer was placed second in the hierarchy of great masters Dali venerated and emulated.
The first was the great Spanish court painter, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez.
We’re moving closer to the revelation…
Perhaps the best-known tribute Dali made to Velazquez was how he paraphrased Velazquez’ large painting, “Surrender of Breda” of 1635 (Prado Museum, Madrid) in his 1959 masterwork, “Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.” The numerous tall lances and flags and other details from “Breda’s” large horizontal canvas appear in Dali’s equally large (about 14 ft. high x 9 ft. wide) vertical masterpiece, which hangs in the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Growing closer to the reveal . . .
Now, while there are other Dali pictures that acknowledge the influence of Velazquez, one of Dali’s final paintings, done in 1982, is an amusing surrealist tribute to Sebastian de Morra, a court dwarf and jester at the court of Philip IV of Spain.
Velazquez did a number of portraits of the fellow, and Dali made his own interpretation of him in the oil on canvas with collage, “Velazquez Dying Behind the Window on the Left Side out of which a Spoon Projects” (Teatro-Museo Dali, Figueres, Spain), shown below.
Most startling in this late work are the fried eggs into which the seated dwarf’s hands have been transformed, and which appear on his shoulders and head as well.
Why would Dali take fried eggs – which were popular in his much earlier surrealist works, such as “Eggs on a Plate Without the Plate” (1932, Dali Museum, Florida) – and put them in a tribute to a well-known portrait by Velazquez? Especially since fried eggs generally symbolized the intrauterine visions Dali insisted he had in that “super-gelatinous” environment in which he lived before the “trauma of birth”?
The reveal . . .
The answer may lie in another Velazquez painting!
Namely, “Old Woman Frying Eggs”
Because, lo and behold, look at what’s smack-dab in the middle of Velazquez’ 1618 painting: none other than fried eggs on a plate!
It may be one of the most significant reasons why Dali was obsessed with fried eggs throughout his career. Because he was obsessed with the genius of Velazquez more than any other painter.
You read it here first, exclusively for The Salvador Dali Society, Inc. (dali.com).