‘World Exclusive’: Woman in Famous Dali Painting May Not be Headless After All!

sex appeal

By Paul Chimera

Dali Writer & Historian


What? There’s something about artist Salvador Dali and, specifically, about a Dali painting, that the whole world seems to agree on! Seriously?


It appears that way, when the subject is Dali’s tiny little jewel of an oil painting, “The Spectre of Sex Appeal,” one of the priceless treasures in the Teatro-Museo Dali in Figueres, Spain.

sex appeal

This diminutive oil on panel, painted when Salvador was a mere 30 years of age, is universally heralded as simply one of his finest works. This is based on two main observations. One is that the work is absolutely exquisite in precision and detail. I’ve seen the work in the flesh – no pun intended, since the “headless” female figure is devoid of a lot of flesh – and it has a quality about it that is impeccable from a technical skill point of view.


In short, it reveals that Salvador Dali was simply one of the finest painters of all time.


The other main observation about “The Spectre of Sex Appeal” is how it essentially holds a mirror up to Dali who, in 1934, was a young man struggling with and confused about his sexuality and about sex in general. His sexual neuroses are illustrated by the little boy dressed in a sailor suit in the lower right – positively towered over by the immense and abominable central female figure.


The child, of course, is young Dali, who was frequently dressed in a sailor suit popular at the time. His holding a bone and hoop takes little imagination to discern the symbolism of male and female genitalia, respectively.


The horrifying female figure in an orange-colored leotard or swim suit has her pelvic area and breasts supplanted by sacks, suspected to perhaps be a reference to the painting with which Dali was obsessed all his artistic career: “The Angelus” by Millet.

Millet's "The Angelus" may have influenced "Spectre of Sex Appeal" by Dali

Millet’s “The Angelus” may have influenced “Spectre of Sex Appeal” by Dali

Clearly “The Spectre of Sex Appeal” is a symbol of the young painter’s apprehension about women and their sexual nature, and how he might fit into that equation.


But this blogger, writing exclusively for The Salvador Dali Society, Inc., of Torrance, Calif., is putting out to the world – for the first time, so far as I’m aware – that what has been thought of as a headless figure in “The Spectre of Sex Appeal” might not be headless at all! It may actually be a figure involved in another of Dali’s famous double- or hidden-images.


I believe Dali may well have intended that the head of the woman be discerned in the cliffs behind her!


To demonstrate what I’m suggesting, I’ve used a black marker to show how the head and elongated hair of the woman extend seamlessly from her neck and shoulders area onto the rocks behind her.


Do you see?


I know. I’ve stated many times that frequently people saw things in Dali’s works that he himself never intended. Is this a case of that phenomenon? Or did Dali mean to reveal the head of this curious human form in the manner I’ve just described?


We’ll leave this to you, dear reader, to decide for yourself.

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