Dali’s ‘Persistence’ Priceless; His ‘Santiago’ Inspired by Architecture


By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian/Writer


Two iconic Salvador Dali masterpieces are on my radar as I write, each for entirely different reasons. Thanks, Enrique Zepeda, based in Mexico City and partner in Dali Authorities. Enrique recently acquired a Spanish magazine, Blanco y Negro of 1959, which featured several Dali paintings – including a helpful juxtaposition of Santiago El Grande with an interior view of the Church of the Jacobins in Toulouse, France.


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The fact that Dali was inspired by this vaulted architecture was brought out pictorially in an early paperback book, Dali – The Masterworks, by Dali patron A. Reynolds Morse. But the above-noted magazine (translated as Black and White) puts the two images side by side, making it perfectly clear how the one influenced the other.



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Precious Persistence

I’m sure I’ll be forever amazed at how much, or, rather, how little Dali’s most famous work of art was sold for in the year it was painted. I’m talking of course about the Persistence of Memory of 1931, painted when Salvador was just 27 years old. My friend, Elliott King, Ph.D., a Dali expert, author and art professor, recently clarified things for me when it came to just how the transaction went down all those years back.


Art collector and gallery owner Julian Levy purchased the small canvas for $250. He offered it to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for $400, but the museum found that too expensive. ($400 in 1931 would be equivalent to about $6,242.00 today.) Elliott King told me that a museum board of trustees member bought the picture for approximately $350, then donated it to the museum.


I know of one author and art collector who told me this week that he would expect Persistence of Memory to bring at least $60 million at auction today. Its small size, he speculates, is the only reason it might not go for more. It’s all conjecture, of course, but I personal don’t believe Persistence of Memory’s size would affect how much it would bring at auction. The work is too iconic, too famous, too much of a historical art treasure to be concerned with how many square inches it has.




In fact, its smaller size might even add to its monetary value, since its diminutive nature sort of accords with its jewel-like miniaturist allure. The undeniable fact is that Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory is not only his most famous work and not only the most famous work in all of Surrealism, but just might be the most famous painting in the 20th century. Its value in dollars and cents? Positively priceless.



[Images used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes]

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