Our Impressionist/Modern Works on Paper auction features four works by Salvador Dalí that belong to a unique series of illustrations executed in 1964 for Biblia Sacra – an illustrated edition of the Bible published by Rizzoli between 1967 and 1969. Incredibly successful, the illustrations were later re-published in subsequent editions in Barcelona, Paris and Germany.
Drawing from the Bible’s mystic dimension and from his own taste for grandiose, impenetrable imagery, Dalí was able to create a series of compelling illustrations which – although inspired by the scriptures – added a number of new images to the artist’s personal delirious saga. A Spaniard who had certainly absorbed his country’s fervent Catholic faith, Dalí had incorporated Christian iconography in his artistic universe well before the commission for the Bible’s illustrations. From the Crucifixion, to the Virgin Mary, Dalí had already re-appropriated the mighty spell of Christian imagery into his paintings, merging the miraculous visions and impenetrable mysteries of Catholicism into the hallucinatory world of his art. His illustrations for Biblia Sacra thus continue a theme that obsessed and fascinated Dalí.
In its entirety, the series illustrates the variety of graphic effects deployed by Dalì in his drawings, which range from incredibly evocative drips to mesmerising effusions of colour. In two particularly dramatic drawings, Dalí was able to translate the terror and awe of the sacred scripture through rich blotching effects: in Flagellation à la colonne and in David et Goliath violent drips of dark ink and vivid red are used to evoke the sublimation of suffering that is at the core of the Bible’s most gripping sacred stories. Displaying Dalí’s mighty powers as a draughtsman, the illustrations for Biblia Sacra are a brilliant rendition of the arresting force of Christianity’s sacred text merged with Dalinian pathos and subversion.