Mystery of Largely Unknown Dali Masterpiece Begins to Unravel
By Paul Chimera
Salvador Dali Historian
Today I’m excited to consider the nearly impossible: a huge Dali masterpiece that almost literally no one has ever seen or known about.
OK, maybe that’s my effusiveness running amok some. But I know for certain that, since this work was never shown in any English-language book or catalog of Dali’s work (and perhaps never in any other language, either, until it was up for sale in 2007), the painting will be a total revelation to most Dali aficionados. And at least a few scholars, too.
The Dali work is titled “El Coloso” (“The Giant”), completed in 1956 after it was reportedly commissioned by one of Spain’s banking families. That arrangement must have been kept extraordinarily on the down-low, for reasons utterly unknown to this blogger.
The large work, measuring some 11 ft. x 8 ft., first came to my attention thanks to Nigel Simmins, a loyal friend who lives in England and is absolutely one of the world’s biggest collectors of Salvador Dali memorabilia – and one of the most enthusiastic Dali fans on the planet.
Years back, Nigel shared with an internet Dali collectors group a newspaper story of 2 June 2007 in the London Times, headlined, “Homage to the Grandeur of Spain.” The article included a picture of “El Coloso” and was the first – and only – time I’ve ever seen or read anything whatsoever about this remarkable picture.
Nigel’s beloved partner Lesley was kind enough, just today, to type out the text of the Times story so that I may share it below. With gratitude to both Nigel and Lesley, here’s what the Times reported:
El Coloso is the largest picture that Dali is known to have painted (blogger’s note: actually, many others are larger). He made a preliminary sketch in 1954 and completed it in 1956. It is a symbolic representation of Spain, with the nation’s feet buried deep in the earth and its arms stretched up towards the sky.
Out of the Colossus’s powerful body spring the essential elements of Spain’s rural economy, ears of corn and olive trees. The giant figure is also giving birth to the great monuments of Spain’s artistic heritage.
We discern panoramic views of Madrid; Granada with the silhouette of the Alhambra; and the Plaza de los Capuchinos in Cordoba, with its white marble sculpture of Cristo de los Faroles. Other, more generalized castles throng the architectural scene, including, probably the cast of Siguenza, now a parador.
Scattered about the dry earth are many details from paintings by Velazquez, including his equestrian portraits of Felipe IV and Prince Baltasar Carlos, the famous painting of Las Meninas and other portraits of the Infante Don Carlos and – indispensable, no doubt for Dali – a joker called Calabacillas, or Pumpkins. Don Quixote is also to be found among the offspring of the Colossus.
This is Dali’s homage to Spain, a rich fantasy but far more straightforward than most of his work. It is for sale for 2.8 million euros…and can be seen at the Lopez de Aragon gallery in Madrid.
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It’s a bit mind-blowing that such a large painting by a world-famous artist could somehow fly under the radar all this time. There is virtually nothing known about this Dali work. It has never been exhibited, pictured in a catalog or book, or written about anywhere, save for the short London Times story (and in an auction catalog in Madrid).
I’m reminded of the Maltese cross-like structure of Dali’s large painting, “The Perpignan Railway Station.” One also cannot help but consider the giant-like figure here in comparison to that seen in Dali’s 1954 “Colossus of Rhodes.”
Dali authority Enrique E. Zepeda tells me the work, which is tempera and acrylic on canvas, was exhibited for sale at an art fair held in the Netherlands in 2007. While Dali really never worked in acrylics — he didn’t like them — it was noted by Dali protégé Louis Markoya that Dali used acrylics here because apparently that was a condition of the commission assignment.
How “El Coloso” has managed to remain virtually unknown to the Dali world is still something of a mystery. This blog post today will help lift at least a thin layer of the shroud that has kept this masterpiece in the dark for over 60 years.