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Eléphant du triomphe

Eléphant du triomphe
signed, numbered and stamped with foundry mark ‘Dalí 7/8 CERA PERSA SA MENDRISO’ (on the side of the base)
bronze with green and brown patina and polished bronze
Height: 265 cm. (104 3/8 in.)
Conceived in 1975
Fundació Gala Salvador Dalí, Figueres.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2007.
R. and N. Descharnes, Dalí, The Hard and the Soft, Sculptures & Objects, Paris, 2004, p. 252, no. 651 (another cast illustrated in color, p. 253).
B. Levi, Dalí in the Third Dimension, The Stratton Foundation Collection, Turin, 2010, pp. 154-155 (another cast illustrated in color; monumental version illustrated in color, pp. 204-205).
The Dalí Universe, exh. cat., Florence, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, 2013, pp. 52-53 (another cast illustrated in color).
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Lot Essay

Robert and Nicolas Descharnes have confirmed the authenticity of this work.

“At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing ever since.”
- Salvador Dalí, 1986

The present large scale sculpture by Salvador Dalí, one of the most prominent proponents of Surrealism, is one of only eight to have been cast in this size. The elephant is a recurring theme in Dalí’s work, first appearing in his 1944 painting Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening. Inspired by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s sculpture in Rome of an elephant carrying an obelisk, Dalí gives the baroque masterpiece a distinctly Surrealist makeover. For him, the elephant is an iconoclastic symbol of the future and one of his favorite images. It is often depicted atop spiderlike legs, emphasizing the contrast between robustness and fragility, much like the contrast between the past and modernity.

Eléphant de triomphe is one of the artist’s most iconic and instantly recognizable subjects. Here, the majestic animal's bejeweled saddle symbolizes wealth, and the dawn of a new era is announced by a flying angel, trumpeting success and prosperity. Dalí's elephant exemplifies every individual's hope for abundance and good fortune in the future.

Born in Figueras in 1904, the Catalan artist Salvador Dalí was given his first name, Salvador, after the name of his dead brother who had been born in 1901 and died twenty-two months later. According to Dalí the premature death of his brother cast an enduring shadow over his life. His father was a public notary with republican atheist views and his mother a devout Catholic. Dalí’s first recorded painting was a landscape in oils supposedly painted in 1910, when he was six years old. Dalí’s early paintings followed the styles of Impressionism, Pointillism and for the most part, Cubism. In 1926 he made his first trip to Paris, and on his second visit, his fellow Catalan artist Joan Miró introduced him to the Surrealist group, whose activities Dalí had read about in a variety of periodicals. Welcomed by the Surrealists as a powerful new imagination, Dalí became fully associated with the movement in 1929. Fusing the profound influence of psychologist Sigmund Freud on his own deeply disturbed psyche, with the painterly style of Yves Tanguy’s mysterious landscapes and images from his home town of Cadaques, between 1924 and 1936 Dalí created a powerfully Surreal visual language. Between 1940 and 1948 Dalí lived and worked in the United States where he gained great commercial success. After 1945 and the explosion of the atomic bombs Dalí seized upon the innovations of the post-war generations of painters, becoming deeply interested in nuclear physics, biology and mathematics while at the same time introducing religious devotional images into his work. In the 1960s Dalí became concerned with recherches visuelles, exploring the optical mechanisms of illusion and the perception of images. The Theatre-Museu Dalí officially opened in 1974, and on his death in 1989 he bequeathed his estate to the Kingdom of Spain and the Independent Region of Catalonia.

Dalí first developed the concept of the Surrealist object in 1931, and from then on continued his quest to free himself from the perceived oppression of conventional society by means of the three dimensional work of art. The exploration of the unconscious would remain a central tenant of his creative project to the end of his life.

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