SALVADOR DALÍ (1904-1989)
SALVADOR DALÍ (1904-1989)
SALVADOR DALÍ (1904-1989)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE ENGLISH COLLECTION
SALVADOR DALÍ (1904-1989)

Femme à la tête de rose, buste de femme et vieillard nu

SALVADOR DALÍ (1904-1989)
Femme à la tête de rose, buste de femme et vieillard nu
signed and dated 'Gala Salvador Dalí 1937' (lower right)
pen and India ink and pencil on paper
25 1⁄2 x 19 1⁄4 in. (64.7 x 49 cm.)
Executed in 1937
M.P. Belgarian, Paris, by 1986, and thence by descent.
Private collection.
Blain Di Donna, New York.
Private collection, London, by whom acquired from the above in 2012.
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. This lot has been imported 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.
Further details
Nicolas, Olivier and the late Robert Descharnes have confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Brought to you by

Olivier Camu
Olivier Camu Deputy Chairman, Senior International Director

Lot Essay

Offering a beguiling view of a pair of elegant hybridised female figures locked in an intense gaze, Femme à la tête de rose, Buste de femme et vieillard nu is a striking example of Salvador Dalí’s refined draughtsmanship. At the heart of the composition stands a nude female character, her sinuous body captured in a network of delicate flowing lines which wrap around her form in wave-like ripples, that simultaneously delineate the muscles of her lithe form and evoke the bark of a willow tree. Reaching upwards, she caresses the forehead of another figure floating weightless above her who, with her refined features and porcelain skin, strongly resembles a piece of classical sculpture. In a stark and surprising twist, the central woman’s head bursts into a bold bouquet of delicate flowers, transforming her into a surreal hybrid creature. Beside them, an old man, who seems entirely human as opposed to the female protagonists, sits naked with his back turned away from them, apparently oblivious to their presence.

The flower-woman hybrid was a key leitmotif from Dalí’s Surrealist idiom of the 1930s, present in his visual and performative productions alike. Most notably, she appeared in the artist’s collaboration with Sheila Legge in Trafalgar Square for The International Surrealist Exhibition held at the New Burlington Galleries in London in 1938. This early example of performance art, titled The Phantom of Sex Appeal, became the cover of the International Surrealist bulletin. Dalí gave his own performance at the exhibition, delivering a lecture on the subject of ‘phantoms’ whilst dressed with a diving suit. Coming close to suffocation from the helmet he was wearing, he almost became a phantom himself.

Though Dalí’s precise involvement in the performance is difficult to pin down, Legge’s performance echoes three of the works the artist produced in 1936 – Le rêve porte la main sur l’épaule dun homme, Femmes aux têtes de fleurs retrouvant sur la plage la dépouille dun piano à queue and Printemps nécrophilique. The performance left a strong impression on those in attendance and became a work in its own right which Claude Cahun immortalised Legge in full costume in a photograph. Eileen Agar also went on to describe Legge as ‘the legendary surrealist phantom who walked around Trafalgar Square’ (M. A. Caws, Surrealism and Women, Cambridge, 1991, p 226).

Dalí eloquently outlined the effect of the elegant Surreal hybrid in a key theoretical text from the period, The Spectral Surrealism of the Pre-Raphaelite Eternal Feminine, which he discussed at the aforementioned exhibition. He urged that one paid attention to the ‘flagrant Surrealism of English Pre-Raphaelitism, artists who give us and make radiant for us the women who are all at once the most desirable and the most frightening in existence… the gelatinous meat of our most shameful, sentimental dreams. The Pre-Raphaelites place on the table the sensational dish of the eternal feminine, livened up with a moral and thrilling touch of highly respectable “repugnance”’ (S. Dalí, The Secret Life of Salvador Dali, New York, 1942, pp. 311 & 312). The flower-woman is both enchantingly beautiful and haunting, seductive in spite of her mysterious hybrid form.

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