Almost cinematic in its extraordinary detail and ambitious scope of subject, Les murs de Babylone
forms part of a series of works Salvador Dalí created in 1954 on the theme of the Seven Wonders of the World. Another work from this group, Le Colosse de Rhodes
, resides prestigiously in the collection of Kunstmuseum Bern. Les murs de Babylone
features a distinguished provenance, having been in the collection of the artist until 1982 when Dalí gifted it to Cécile Éluard, Gala Dalí's daughter by her first husband, Paul Éluard. Although the walls of Babylon themselves are not theoretically part of this legendary septet, the towering edifice, seen in the background soaring above the walls, conceivably represents the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a place of mythical beauty and one of the most celebrated of the Seven Wonders. The minute realism of the scene suggests that the artist arguably utilised an illustration or etching within a book as an inspiration for Les murs de Babylone,
imbuing the original with his own inimitable stylistic savoir-faire
Within the present work, Dalí depicts an attack on the walls of the ancient Mesopotamian city, employing almost microscopic intricacy of line to represent a multitude of figures besieging the walls. Arrows rain down upon the attackers from atop the crenelated safety of the walls, whilst the imposing gate – possibly the Ishtar Gate – appears close to being breached. The curious perspective of the scene encourages the illusion of remarkable depth, as though the walls stretch for an unfathomable length beyond the picture plane. The result is a work of extraordinary complexity which reveals Dalí’s absolute mastery of his medium.