Nicolas and the late Robert Descharnes have confirmed the authenticity of both works.
'If Cadaqués was still isolated in 1930, Port Lligat, twenty minutes or so away on foot by a rough track that passed in front of the cemetery was land's end. More accessible by boat than by any other means of transport, its sole inhabitants were a dozen or so taciturn fishermen, who plied their trade in the treacherous waters of Cape Creus. But Dalí returned home, to the spot he repeatedly said he loved best in all the world, and he was never to regret the decision. Port Lligat, at once Ithaca and Omphalos, immediately became the very centre of his universe, and he was delighted to discover in the bay that reached almost to his doorstep, bounded by the black and jagged island of Sa Farnera, the fleet of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, had anchored early in the sixteenth century. It seemed to him an illustrious omen. Port Lligat means "tied-in port," and in truth the bay is more like an enclosed lake than a tract of sea. This too pleased Dalí. Here, he felt he would be secure. Here he would make his home, expanding the property as his fortunes improved. And so it worked out' (I. Gibson, The Shameful Life of Salvador Dali, London, 1997, p. 250).
More than any other place on earth, it was the bay at Port Lligat that provided the landscape of Salvador Dalí's hallucinatory vision, where the paranoiac-critical images of his paintings repeatedly seemed to emerge before his eyes, the enigmatic shapes of its hills and rocks giving form to so many of his strange and haunting images. It was the light from the sea and sky around this little-known cove that provided both the clarity and the mystery to his visions and the hazy dissonance of its distant horizon that lent his paintings their all-pervasive aura of warmth and enigma. The landscape of his birth and of his childhood, it was on the beach that stretched up to the door of his little house that he had sat with his nurse, where he had later defied his father and first met Gala. 'I am home only here,' Dalí repeatedly said of Port Lligat, 'everywhere else I am camping out' (Dalí, quoted in I. Gibson, The Shameful Life of Salvador Dali, London, 1997, p. 444). In short, Port Lligat was the stage against which Dalí's dreams and visions of life were to play themselves out.
Dalí’s deep sense of self-identification with Port Lligat, with Catalonia, with Spain and also perhaps with America too, is the subject of this painting – an important work that functions as an allegorical self-portrait. Sans titre, bateau à voiles dans la baie de Port Lligat (Untitled, Sailing Ship in the bay of Port Lligat) depicts Dalí, whose shadowy profile appears both at the left-hand side of this painting and projected onto the sails of the magnificent, pristine, white sailing ship sitting, like an apparition at the centre of the bay. Painted, circa 1960, it is one of the last of an extensive series of highly important paintings that Dalí made throughout 1950s and early 1960s in which he repeatedly invoked the bay at Port Lligat not just as his home, but as a scene of magic and religious veneration. These ranged from mystical visions of Gala as the Holy Madonna transfiguring over the bay, to images of Christ crucified in accordance with the vision of St John of the Cross. They also included self-depictions such as the exuberantly entitled Dali Nude in Contemplation before the Five Regular Bodies Metamorphosized into Corpuscles in which Suddenly Appear the Leda of Leonardo Chromosomatized by the Visage of Gala of 1954. In all of these works from this period, Dalí's depictions of his Catalan home imbue the area with a manifest sense of the divine.
The same is true of Sans titre, bateau à voiles dans la baie de Port Lligat which is the most grandiose and elaborate example from a series of pictures which centre around the depiction of a small boat washed up on the shore of the bay outside Dalí's window being celebrated by angels. In the paintings The Angel of Port Lligat, of 1952, and Saint Helen of Port Lligat, of 1956, Dalí had represented the angel as his wife Gala. These paintings appeared to foreshadow in some respects Dalí’s depiction of the 'holy' arrival of Columbus in America in the vast masterpiece he worked on between 1958 and 1959: The Dream of Columbus. The angels and the fishermen on the shore of Port Lligat were somehow echoes in a local and personal way of the grandeur and significance of Columbus’ first landing in America.
Similarly, in Sans titre, bateau à voiles dans la baie de Port Lligat, a mystical sense of arrival is conveyed through the apparition-like image of a pure white sailing ship in the bay outside Dalí’s home. Is this ship a ghostly echo of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, whose fleet, Dalí had been delighted to learn, had once anchored in Port Lligat? Dalí’s projected shadow seen in the foreground of the painting, and also falling across the bay to become a silhouette on the white sails of this impressive ship, appears to suggest some form of self-identification between Dalí and this angelic vessel.
Dalí has also painted himself wearing the red Barretina cap of Catalonia, proudly identifying himself with his homeland as he was often to do in public when he frequently demanded to be photographed wearing this familiar symbol of Catalan identity. Dalí, in spite of his Surrealist associations and manifest eccentricity was also surprisingly conventional in many of his beliefs. A proud Catalan, he was also a devout Catholic and a faithful servant of the Spanish King. In the 1950s, Dalí was also espousing a belief in what he called ‘Nuclear Mysticism’. This was a personal fusion of Catholicism with the new theories of particle physics. It had been Nuclear Mysticism that gave rise to his famous painting Christ of St John of the Cross, perhaps his best-known picture of a mystical apparition taking place over a fishing boat and the bay of Port Lligat.
In Sans titre, bateau à voiles dans la baie de Port Lligat Dalí’s shadowy self-projection over the bay and the heavenly sailing ship at its heart appear to suggest a personal connection between Dalí, Catalonia, Port Lligat and the divine, imperial majesty of Catholic Spanish history. It is an image that, through its projected link between Dalí’s profile, the bay and the holy white sailing ship, appears to articulate something of the artist’s own sense of self-identification with both rural Port Lligat and the grandeur of Spanish history. Dalí’s proud, mustachioed profile here seems to extend both physically and metaphorically between the ordinary Catalan fishing folk of Port Lligat and the great Catholic nobles of Spanish history, to figures like Charles V and Christopher Columbus.
Indeed, Dalí had managed to convince himself by this time that Christopher Columbus was himself a Catalan (from Girona, Dalí argued) and had related Columbus’s ‘holy’ discovery of America to his own sense of connection with the United States – the country where he and Gala had lived for so long. There are, therefore, multiple layers of possibility articulated in this otherwise seemingly simple painting of Dalí’s elongated shadow reaching out to a white ship in the bay.
Executed in a faux-classical style, the painting is also evocative in some respects of the mysterious shorelines of Arnold Böcklin's paintings, which Dalí so admired. As a result, there is an underlying sense of odyssey and of the metaphorical Mediterranean voyages of antiquity which echoes the pervasive sense of laic mystery inherent in Giorgio de Chirico's paintings. As if in response to this context, it can also be noted that in the right hand corner of Sans titre, bateau à voiles dans la baie de Port Lligat, on the crest of the nearest hill and directly in line with his projected profile, Dalí has painted a de Chirico-esque tower. An echo of the same structures that often populated his Catalan landscapes of the early 1930s, here the presence of this tower once again seems to assert the latent sense of mystery and discovery within the Cape Creus landscape. That Dalí always intended this tower to align with the projection of his profile is best indicated in the pen and ink sketch for this painting (also included in this lot), in which the two profiles of Dalí and the tower form the main subject matter of the composition.