Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)

Sans titre, Le piano Steinweg et le boa

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
Sans titre, Le piano Steinweg et le boa
signed 'GALA DALI' (lower right)
watercolor, pen and sepia ink over pencil on card
10 7/8 x 8 1/8 in. (27.5 x 20.6 cm.)
Executed in 1946
Sydney and Phyllis Lucas, New York.
David Tunkl Fine Art, Los Angeles.
Acquired from the above by the late owners, October 2015.
M. Sandoz, La maison sans fenêtres, London, 1950 (illustrated in color).
K. von Maur, Salvador Dalí, exh. cat., Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 1989, p. 492 (illustrated).
Winnipeg Art Gallery, Dalí: Up Close, September 2014-February 2015, p. 40, no. 10 (dated circa 1946).

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Lot Essay

Nicolas and Olivier Descharnes have confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Sans titre, Le piano Steinweg et le boa comes from a series of seven fantastical illustrations Dalí created to illustrate a novel titled The House Without Windows by Maurice Sandoz, published in 1950. Sandoz’s book derives its name from a novel written in 1927, The House Without Windows & Eepersip's Life There by Barbara Newhall Follett, published when the author was only twelve years of age. Applauded by the New York Times, for its view into the “secret, innocent and wild at the same time, of a child’s heart,” the dust jacket from the original 1927 publication remarks: “The House Without Windows is an imaginative child’s name for the world of untouched nature—because that world is itself nothing but one clear window upon beauty, which is a child’s reality.” (B. Newhall Follett, The House Without Windows & Eepersip's Life There, New York, 1927). Its attraction as a literary work to Sandoz may have come not only from its wondrous dream-like quality, expounding the magical joys and natural beauty from the curious mind of a child prodigy upon wandering from her parents supervision on a vast odyssey, but for the true life story of its author who mysteriously disappeared at age 27.
Sandoz’s own novel recreates the child’s adventure in a different guise, as the flyleaf reads: “A boy keen on music happens to see an advertisement for the sale of a piano in a newspaper, and persuades his mother to take him to the strange Villa Nirvana on the shores of Lake Constance where the sale was advertised. The mysteries he encounters in The House Without Windows, the home of Professor Kacha, will astonish the reader who, in the following adventures of this extraordinary man, will gradually find himself involved in the complications of a weird and exciting plot. Here is a tale for all lovers of mystery and the bizarre. The atmosphere of the book has been admirably caught by the famous artist Salvador Dalí, whose fascinating illustrations match the fantastic happenings in this absorbing story.” (M. Sandoz, The House Without Windows, London, 1950). Naturally, at mention of the "weird and exciting" it is clear that Dalí was pleased to collaborate with Sandoz once again, as he had previously on The Maze, published in 1945.
The subject of the present work relates in subject to Dalí’s Fontaine nécrophilique coulant d'un piano à queue from 1933, which both depict a piano with rushing water which is penetrated through the center by a cypress tree, as we see in the background of the present work. This motif was probably inspired by Dalí's visit to the painter Ramon Pichot's house in Cadaqués. Dalí's family had summered at Pichot's house, and the young Dalí spent many hours in the garden, which contained a fountain and cypress trees. Not only does the piano imagery reoccur frequently in Dalí's work of 1933 and 1934, but Dalí and Luis Buñuel used the piano to symbolize "the whole weight of a decaying society chaining the free expression of the man's desire" in their 1929 film Un chien andalou (D. Ades, Dalí, London, 1995, p. 53). The combination of the piano, cypress tree and gushing water thus take on sexual implications possibly related to fantasies the young Dalí had while at Pichot's.
Dalí’s imagery combines the imagery of his own repertoire with the qualities of wonder and exploration extolled within the book. Grand pianos, expressed as the object of infatuation, populate the composition in a hallucinatory multiplicity, their legs repeating throughout, both attached to the instrument and in the upper left corner hanging downward, suggestive of Doric columns, detached from their original context by the decay of time, the relics of a formerly imposed order. Nature has taken over with twisting trees and grasses climbing through the man-made elements of the composition whilst serpents, signifying nature’s sublime and dangerous power also indicate an inevitable return to the underworld.

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