Dali’s ‘Naughtiest’ Painting formerly Owned by Hugh Hefner!
By Paul Chimera
Dali Writer & Historian
It sure is fitting that, until it was sold at auction some years back for upwards of $2 million, “Young Virgin Autosodomized by Her Own Chastity” (1954) was one of the long-time prized possessions of Playboy impresario Hugh Hefner. Who better to proudly display what is arguably Salvador Dali’s naughtiest work of art!
What might we suppose Dali was thinking at this time? What message, if any, did he wish to convey? Some have pointed out that the work may have been something of a jab at Dali’s sister, Ana Maria, with whom he had a falling out. There seems to be little question that the young lady leaning out the window is reminiscent of a fine work Dali painted 29 years earlier: “Girl at the Window” of 1925.
If Dali wanted to send some disparaging sentiments Ana Maria’s way, he seems to have done a hard-to-beat job here. The horns (rhino horns, as we’ll discuss momentarily) are unquestionably phallic – especially the shape of her right buttock – and they all converge at a point where (how to say this delicately?) sodomy is achieved. Nicely dressed in the 1925 canvas, if this is in fact supposed to represent Dali’s sister, or at least be suggestive of that possibility, the lady’s unadulterated naked humiliation in “Young Virgin” is framed by the window opening for everyone to ogle.
And yet there’s a paradoxical softness, even sweetness about the work. Her hair is neatly coiffed. She adopts a relaxed pose, gazing out upon a sun-suffused sky and waveless sea, while it’s all bathed in a kind of Vermeer-like light.
Her stance, accentuated by the casual, almost flirty positioning of her feet in her loafers, adds to the sense of serenity as those horns help comprise her backside and legs, while fulfilling their intended mission.
“Young Virgin” is a great example of how Dali married his surrealist upbringing to his new interest in nuclear physics. He was fascinated by the curve of a rhinoceros horn, since it represented a logarithmic spiral that is a foundation of the mathematical principles with which he imbued his compositions. Three rhino horns float in the space around her, while the others serve a more utilitarian purpose. The dematerialization of the cylindrical black ledge on which the lady is leaning further signifies the discontinuity of matter that scientists were discovering and by which Dali was intrigued. Not to be underestimated, however, is Dali’s erotic proclivities, especially as a voyeur. Surely he intended this painting to be titillating, and I can only imagine the pleasure he took in creating it!
While the “Girl at the Window” painting from Dali’s earlier years surely informed this work, there’s a more pedestrian influence here as well. Elliott King, Ph.D., an art professor and curator of the great “Dali: The Late Work” exhibition in 2010-’11 at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, revealed in his catalog of that exhibition that a simple lingerie ad inspired the specific pose, right down to the seemed stockings and flats (see photo).
Since I mentioned Hugh Hefner, let me include a sexy watercolor that had also been in the Playboy Mansion collection. It’s a bit kinder and gentler than “Young Virgin Autosodomized by Her Own Chastity”!