Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION
Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)

Ballerine en tête de mort

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
Ballerine en tête de mort
signed and dated 'Dali 1932 ?' (upper centre)
oil on canvas
9 5/8 x 7 ¾ in. (24.5 x 19.5 cm.)
Painted circa 1939
Georges Hugnet, Paris.
Kunsthandel Den Tijd (Leo Dohmen), Antwerp.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 30 June 1987, lot 230.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
R. Descharnes & G. Néret, Salvador Dalí, The Paintings, vol. I, 1904-1946, Cologne, 1994, no. 756, pp. 336 & 759 (illustrated p. 337).
J.-H. Martin, S. Andreae & U. Husmeier, The Endless Enigma: Dalí and The Magicians of Multiple Meaning, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2003, p. 247 (illustrated).
G. Beauté, Little Dalí a l'escola, Escaldes-Engordany, 2005, p. 53 (illustrated).
Exh. cat., Ola Pepín! Dalí, Lorca y Buñuel en la Residencia de Estudiantes, Barcelona, 2007, p. 159 (illustrated).
Exh. cat., Culture Chanel, Shanghai, 2011, p. 256 (illustrated in situ).
I. Murga Castro, Pintura en danza. Los artistas españoles y el ballet: 1916-1962, Madrid, 2012, p. 357 (illustrated).
M. Hamel, 'Les Nuées de Salvador Dalí, ou le surréalisme mis en scène', in Les Cahiers du Musée national d'art moderne, vol. 121, Paris, 2012, p. 99 (illustrated).
A. Sánchez Vidal, 'Los ballets dalinianos, de Bacanal a Sacrificio', in ARTE Y PARTE, no. 104, April-May 2013, p. 24 (illustrated).
Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, ed., Salvador Dalí: Catálogo Razonado de Pinturas, (, no. P 500 (illustrated).
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, Salvador Dalí, May - July 1989, no. 216, p. 278 (illustrated p. 279); this exhibition later travelled to Zurich, Kunsthaus Zurich, August - October 1989.
Humlebæk, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Salvador Dalí, December 1989 - March 1990, no. 21, (illustrated in Louisiana Revy, vol. 30, no. 1, p. 45).
Montreal, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Salvador Dalí, April - July 1990, no. 19, (illustrated p. 55).
Bonn, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, ¿Buñuel!, Auge des Jahrhunderts, February - April 1994 (illustrated p. 217).
Vienna, Kunsthalle Wien, Surrealismus in Spanien, May - July 1995, no. 44, p. 385 (illustrated p. 274).
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, ¿Buñuel!, la mirada del siglo, July - October 1996, p. 392 (illustrated p. 165; dated '1932?'); this exhibition later travelled to Mexico City, Museo del Palacio de Bellas (illustrated); this Artes, December 1996 - March 1997.
Barcelona, CaixaForum, Dalí. Cultura de masas, February - May 2004, no. 323, p. 186 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, June - August 2004; St. Petersburg, Florida, Salvador Dalí Museum, October 2004 - January 2005; and Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, It's all Dalí, Film, fashion, photography, design, advertising, painting, March - June 2005 (illustrated p. 301).
Paris, Grand Palais, Une image peut en cacher une autre, Arcimboldo, Dalí, Raetz, April - July 2009, no. 258, p. 306 (illustrated p. 307; dated '1932').
Ludwigshafen-am-Rhein, Wilhelm-Hack-Museum & Kunstverein, Gegen Jede Vernunft. Surrealismus Paris-Prag, November 2009 - February 2010, no. 157 p. 210 (illustrated; dated '1932').
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. These lots have been imported from outside the EU or, if the UK has withdrawn from the EU without an agreed transition deal, from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Olivier Camu
Olivier Camu

Lot Essay

‘Of a cubist picture one asks: “What does that represent?” – Of a surrealist picture, one sees what it represents but one asks: “What does that mean?” – Of a ‘paranoiac picture’ one asks abundantly: “What do I see?” “What does that represent?” “What does that mean?” It means one thing certainly, - the end of so-called modern painting based on laziness, simplicity, and gay decoration’
(S. Dalí, ‘Dalí, Dalí!’ in H. Finkelstein, ed., The Collected Writings of Salvador Dalí, Cambridge, 1998, p. 336).

Ballerine en tête de mort (Ballerina in a Death's-Head) emerged during one of the most productive periods of Salvador Dalí’s career, as the artist began to explore and experiment with the visual possibilities of his paranoiac-critical method of painting. This technique, which had first emerged in Dalí’s semi-autobiographical paintings on the theme of William Tell in the early 1930s, was defined by the artist as a ‘spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based upon the critical-interpretive association of delirious phenomena’ (Dalí, quoted in A. Breton, Surrealism and Painting, London, 1965, pp. 134-5). Central to this practice was the use of double or simultaneous images, which offered a multitude of potential readings, depending on the viewer’s own subjective vision. Rooted in the artist’s interests in the field of optics and perception, these highly inventive and suggestive optical illusions were intended to undermine the viewer’s unwavering acceptance of the rational world, throwing them into a state of confusion in which reality as they understand it is no longer secure.

Though signed and dated to 1932 by Dalí in 1967, Ballerine en tête de mort was actually created in 1939 at the peak of the evolution of the paranoiac-critical technique, and drew inspiration from the artist’s work on the ballet Bacchanale for Les ballets russes de Monte Carlo. Dalí had become involved with the acclaimed ballet company in the autumn of 1938, during a four-month stay at Coco Chanel’s villa, La Pausa, in Roquebrune, Cap Martin. Originally titled Tristan Fou, the ballet had its roots in an opera project Dalí had been working on in 1934, and was based on the opening scene of Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser from 1845. The artist was fascinated by the composer and his great patron, the ‘mad’ King Ludwig II of Bavaria, and sought to present a frenzied, heightened vision of Wagner’s work, as seen through ‘the deliriously confused brain of Ludwig II of Bavaria, who “lived” all of Wagner’s myths with such profound hyperesthesia as to verge on madness’ (Dalí, quoted in D. Ades, Dalí: The Centenary Retrospective, exh. cat., London, 2004, p. 316). Subtitling Bacchanale ‘The First Paranoiac Ballet,’ Dalí threw himself into preparations for the production, designing the grand stage sets and even composing a libretto for the piece.

The female dancer at the heart of Ballerine en tête de mort is based on the character of Lola Montez, King Ludwig II’s lover, who discovers the monarch’s body towards the end of the ballet. Here, the ballerina’s supple body appears to meld with the cold, petrified skull that lurks behind her. Adopting a seductive pose, she raises her arms above her head, their shape echoing the curves of the eye sockets, while her willowy torso can also be read as an elongated nasal cavity. She appears to wear a version of Lola’s costume from Bacchanale – harem trousers beneath a hoop skirt adorned with teeth-like decorations along its circumference – though here, the entire costume is bleached to a luminous shade of white, emphasising the connection between the body of the ballerina and the skull. These striking costumes were designed by Coco Chanel, and were mostly likely conceived during the feverish months of creativity that marked the beginning of the project during Dalí’s stay at her home in the South of France. Praising the ‘wholehearted enthusiasm’ with which she embraced the Bacchanale, Dalí was clearly captivated by Chanel’s designs, and the ways in which they could interact and engage with the sets he was creating for the production.

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