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!