Salvador Dali 1961-On[Singles]
Medium: Watercolor, pen, and collage on Strathmore board, signed Dal
Madame Butterfly The Japanese Geisha standing in the center of the painting is Cio-Cio San from the Giacomo Puccini opera Madame Butterfly. She is carefully painted in an eclectic selection of watercolors while the background stands nearly vast and empty creating a distinct contrast between Cio-Cio San and her environment. She also holds a butterfly as if it were her national flag. Taken from a print the butterfly adds a unique presence to the original piece changing it from a watercolor painting to a multimedia masterpiece. In 1955 Dalí was in the midst of creating some of his most famous works including his interpretation of The Last Supper. In fact this period is filled with large enormous canvases that demanded a majority of Dali's time and effort.
It was Dalí's fondness for the subject matter that caused him to set aside his time to create this watercolor. Madame Butterfly is an opera that revolves around a tale of love. B.F. Pinkerton is a U.S. sailor on duty in Japan. While stationed there he falls in love with a young woman named Cio-Cio San, also known by her friends as Butterfly . The two marry but soon after Pinkerton's duty is done and he returns to the U.S. promising his young wife he will return soon. For three years she waits for his return. At last Pinkerton does come back only to reveal to Butterfly that he has remarried. Butterfly is devastated and the opera ends on a tragic note. Dalí was fascinated by operas. He worked on many opera productions in his life and he particularly liked Madame Butterfly for its symbolic use of the butterfly.
Traditionally the butterfly represents life and light, essentially hope. Dalí has used this exact interpretation of the butterfly in many of his works, thus cementing the butterfly as a staple of Dalínean Iconography. In Japan, if a butterfly enters one's home that person's love will soon come to see them. Obviously Puccini heavily drew on this belief using Cio-Cio San to symbolize someone waiting for their soul mate. Because of the butterflies unique beauty it is usually associated with femininity and grace. Dalí especially loved the butterfly's natural symmetrical wings which often display wonderfully colored designs and images. A year later Dalí would famously portray the butterfly in his unquestionable masterpiece, Landscape with Butterflies. There the giant flying insect is set upon a simple setting while they cast shadows onto a wall.
Dalí again uses the butterfly quite liberally throughout his legendary graphics suite Memories of Surrealism. Dalí often found nature to provide much inspiration. He used other insects like moths, ants, and flies to suggest deeper meaning in his works. Here he delicately tries to duplicate the enchanting wingspan of the butterfly. We find it casting its shadow upon a rock formation re-emphasizing the butterfly's contrast to darkness. For Dalí the image of a woman holding the butterfly has come to mean hope, light, and love.
Recently Dalí paintings have been selling to high bidders and making lots of news throughout the art community. A multimedia painting entitled Le Voyage Fantastique blew collectors away when it sold over a million dollars, a figure much higher than the estimate. Madame Butterfly also carries this potential as being another big selling multimedia painting. This original work offers a wonderful elaboration of an obscure object of Dali's obsession, the butterfly.