Robert and Nicolas Deschares have confirmed the authenticity of this work.
This fine drawing is a preparatory study for Dalí's masterpiece La naissance des désirs liquides of 1932, purchased by Peggy Guggenheim from Gala, Dalí's wife, in 1940 (fig. 1). The provenance of the drawing is of particular interest as it seems to have entered Count Etienne de Beaumont's collection shortly after it was executed in 1932. Beaumont (1883-1956) was a stage designer for ballets as well as being both a costume and jewellery designer. He was a socialite among the intellectual Parisian circles, organising popular parties attended by, amongst others, Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, René Crevel and Jean Cocteau.
Both the drawing and painting of La naissance des désirs liquides belong to Dalí's series of works from 1929-1933 in which he explores one of his favourite themes, the story of William Tell. Through this story, Dalí creates a 'castration-myth' inspired by Sigmund Freud's interpretation of the Oedipus complex, where a father figure embodies a menacing presence, aggressively willing to sacrifice (or mutilate) his son. Dalí's obsession with castration, eroticism and sexual anxiety coincides with the beginning of his affair with Paul Eluard's wife, Gala in 1929, which was seen as an outrageous scandal in his family's eyes. Dalí's already disintegrating relationship with his father further deteriorated at this point, with the latter eventually rejecting his son.
Angelica Rudenstine suggests that the figure of William Tell embodies Dalí's father, identified in the drawing as the central hermaphrodite figure with globular eyes, bearing a loaf of bread on his head (A.Z. Rudenstine, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 1985, p. 201). This imposing character pushes back the embracing female figure, who, still according to Rudenstine, represents the object of desire, Dalí's Gradiva, or the legendary 'femme surréaliste'. Rudenstine further points out that the retreat of the young man into the recess of the rock formation on the right implies the father's victory over the son and a possible lapse into autoeroticism, thereby drawing in another favourite 'Daliesque' myth, that of Narcissus.
The repression of Dalí's sexual desire is central to La naissance des désirs liquides, especially in the drawing version, where Gala/Gradiva is represented a second time in the upper left quadrant, turning down her flower-head in submission towards the William Tell figure. In La naissance des désirs liquides, Dalí excels in his talent as a draughtsman and displays his ability to fuse various legends in a single image in order to recreate his own personal myth, a talent praised by his contemporary René Crevel, 'Just as Freud resurrected Oedipus, Dalí resurrected William Tell' (Dalí ou l'Anti-obscurantisme, Paris, 1931, p. 29).
(fig. 1) Salvador Dalí, The Birth of Liquid Desires, 1931-32, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, NY).