Salvador Dalí, the Spanish painter, began to venture into jewelry design around 1938. Known for his surrealist paintings depicting melting clocks and mythological subjects featuring his wife, Gala, Dalí was infamous for his eccentric behavior and iconic curled mustache. Like other visual artists of the time, such as Georges Braque and Alexander Calder, Dalí ventured into jewelry to further express his artistic talents.
Dalí drew special blue prints and worked directly with jewelry manufacturer Alemany and Ertman in New York City. Dalí hand-picked the stones personally, not only for color and quality, but also for the aura the stones would evoke. The themes in his jewels were similar to his paintings: religion, mythology, nature and surrealist ‘Dalinian’ symbolism.
Carlos Bernard Alemany was born in Buenos Aires and settled in New York in the 1940s. He learned about the jewelry trade on 47th Street in the heart of New York. During the 1950s, he had a workshop of his own at the St. Regis Hotel known as Alemany & Ertman. It was around this time that he met Dalí.
Alemany brought Dalí’s visions to life through jewelry, also at times collaborating with Charles Vaillant, another talented jewelry manufacturer. Passionate about Dalí’s creative genius, Carlos Alemany also toured domestically and internationally with the jewelry and gave lectures.
In 1958, twenty-two pieces of Dalí jewels, made by Alemany and Ertman were purchased by the Owen Cheatham Foundation. The Owen Cheatham Foundation was established in 1934 with the purpose of supporting charitable and educational projects. The Foundation acquired this extensive collection of Salvatore Dalí jewels and toured the collection internationally. Described by the Foundation as ‘rare in concept and exquisite in creation,’ the collection was available on loan to assist in fundraising activities of museums and other charitable, educational and religious institutions.
Lot 14 is a unique version of Dalí’s ‘Tristan and Isolde’ brooch design, made by Alemany and Ertman. It features the two profiles, sculpted in gold, separated by a chalice of wine, created by a cabochon garnet and diamonds. Inspired by Richard Wagner’s 1859 opera, the motif is based on the 12th century legend of two star-crossed lovers, Tristan and Isolde, who unsuspectingly drink a love potion that leads to their ill-fated romance.