Sir Michael Sadler, United Kingdom (acquired by at least 1942, thence to his estate and sold: Phillips, Son & Neale, London, April 4, 1990, lot 23)
Private Collection, Paris
Private Collection, Basel
Daniel Filipacchi, New York (by 1999)
Sale: Sotheby’s, New York, November 2, 2010, lot 43
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Another element that plays a key role in this and several important Surrealist compositions is the shoe. For Dalí, this object functioned as a fetish that was used to channel repressed sexual desires. According to Dawn Ades, "Freud saw fetishism as a pathological condition in which the fetishist, unable to acknowledge his or her attraction for some threatening or forbidden object of desire, finds gratification by displacing the impulse onto an object or body part, such as a glove or a foot... Dalí's choice of a woman's shoe, which Krafft-Ebing in his Psychopathia sexualis had associated with masochism, ranks alongside other subversive items, such as gloves, zippers, feathers, hair and fur, that recur in numerous Surrealist objects of the 1930s. These are all classic examples of a fetishist's object of displaced desire, in which the libido is transferred from the whole object of affection to a part, a symbol, or an article of clothing" (D. Ades, Dalí (exhibition catalogue), Palazzo Grassi, Venice & Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004-05, pp. 158-161).
Dalí probably used a magnifying glass while composing this picture in order to render the minute details and inscription along the bottom right edge. ‘Olivette’, referenced in the dedication, was the artist's term of endearment for his lover Gala and her olive-toned skin. Dalí and the French poet Eluard met in 1929, around the time when the artist was staying in Paris where he assisted Luis Buñuel with the filming of Un Chien Andalou. During his stay in the capital, Dalí came in contact with the Surrealists and invited them to visit him in Cadaqués in the summer. Among those who spent the summer with Dalí were Paul Eluard with his wife Gala and their daughter Cécile, as well as Buñuel and René Magritte with his wife. This visit would prove to be a major turning point for the young painter, and was to change both his private and artistic life. Robert Descharnes wrote: "Dalí felt flattered that Paul Eluard should have come to see him. With André Breton and Louis Aragon, Eluard was one of the leading lights of the Surrealist movement. As for Gala, she was a revelation – the revelation Dalí had been waiting for, indeed expecting. She was the personification of the woman in his childhood dreams to whom he had given the mythical name Galuchka" (R. Descharnes, op. cit., p. 149).
In September Paul Eluard, the Magrittes and Buñuel returned to Paris, leaving Gala to remain with Dalí for a few more weeks. Gala (1894-1982) was born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova in Russia, and as a young woman spent time in Moscow, Switzerland and Paris. In 1915 she met the poet Paul Eluard, and the two married in 1917. Through Eluard, with whom she lived in Paris, Gala met a number of artists and writers, and soon became a source of inspiration to many of them, including André Breton and Louis Aragon. Immersed in the Surrealist mindset Gala proved irresistible to Dalí and despite a certain shyness on his part – he would frequently burst into bouts of nervous laughter when he initially tried to talk to her - Dalí and Gala were to become an inseparable partnership. Her domineering character was the guiding force behind this incredible period of creativity. According to Robert Descharnes, it was during these weeks that: "Dalí fell madly in love with Gala Eluard, and the legendary couple Gala/ Dalí was born. Gala proved to be not only his lifelong companion and the inspiration for his work, she also filled him with exaltation and strength. It was she who enabled him to free himself from the prejudices, doubts, and hesitations that were tearing him apart; it was she who helped him attain all his goals" (R. Descharnes, Salvador Dalí: The Work, The Man, New York, 1984, p. 85).
Furthermore, in Gala, Dalí had found the personification of his desires, which had hitherto eluded him despite searching for such a companion in Paris and Figueres. Quoting from Dalí’s own writing Descharnes explained: "At the time, Gala was everything to him. Gala followed him everywhere, defended him, and protected him against others and against himself. He could hardly believe it: 'The idea that in my own room where I was going to work there might be a woman, a real woman who moved, with senses, body hair and gums, suddenly struck me as so seductive that it was difficult for me to believe this could be realized' (R. Descharnes & G. Néret, op. cit., Cologne, 1994, p. 174).
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