Robert Descharnes has confirmed the authenticity of this watercolor.
In 1946, Norman Coe of the perfume maker Leigh commissioned Dalí to produce paintings and an advertising program for "Desert Flower", the company's new fragrance. Dalí worked on a number of oil paintings, as well as related advertising material, from June to September of that year while staying at the Del Monte Lodge, Pebble Beach, California. He ultimately created three large oils which would be used in Desert Flower's marketing: Oasis, The Invisible Lovers, and Mirage. Wonderfully detailed, miniature versions of all these paintings are depicted in situ in Dalí's room study (see lot 131).
The present watercolor, according to correspondence between Coe and Dalí, is an early study for Mirage. However, in the finished painting the draped figure of Venus, aroused by the scent of the desert flower, caresses the disembodied head, rather than the crystalline torso, of her lover Apollo. In his notes to an exhibition of the paintings at M. Knoedler & Co., New York in 1946, Dalí described the scene as "The aura of classic antiquity evokes the desert flower, issuing from the forehead of Apollo."
The pen and ink studies (see lot 132), show sketches for the first painting in the series, Oasis (see fig.). The upper section of the drawing more closely resembles the final composition, with the figures of Venus and Apollo materializing from the rocks. Of this painting Dalí wrote: "The visible lovers. At the approach to the oasis, Apollo and Venus materialize in empty space. By grace of the desert flower, they rise into view from the aridity of the rocks."
The phenomenon of mirage provided a natural analogy for Dali's "paranoic-critical" method in painting. Dalí understood this "as a form of delirious interpretation of the world and object around the 'sufferer'; it resulted in the concrete irrationality -- convincing but impossible alternative readings of a 'single' configuration in a picture" (D. Ades, "Morphologies of Desire," Salvador Dalí: the early years, exh. cat., London, South Bank Centre, 1994, p. 157).