Lot 43
  • 43

Salvador Dalí

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
485,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Salvador Dalí
  • Vénus de Milo aux tiroirs
  • inscribed Dalí and numbered 3/5
  • painted bronze and ermine pompons


Paul Haim, France

André-François Petit, Paris (acquired from the above in January 1978. Sold: Sotheby's, London, 25th June 1997, lot 217)

Private Collection, Europe (purchased at the above sale. Sold: Christie's, London, 6th February 2007, lot 133)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


William S. Rubin, Dada and Surrealist Art, New York, 1968, no. 203, another example illustrated p. 234

Max Gérard (ed.), Dalí, Paris, 1968, no. 148, another example illustrated

Carlton Lake, In Quest of Dalí, New York, 1969, pp. 72-74

Jose Pierre, An Illustrated Dictionary of Surrealism, London, 1974, another example illustrated p. 45

Sarane Alexandrian, Dalí, Paris, 1974, another example illustrated p. 9

Luis Romero, Tout Dalí en un visage, Paris, 1975, no. 292, another example illustrated p. 231

Robert Descharnes, Salvador Dalí, New York, 1976, no. 146, another example illustrated p. 164

Patrick Waldberg, Michel Sanouillet & Robert Lebel, Dada Surréalisme, Paris, 1981, another example illustrated p. 253

Robert Descharnes, Dalí, l'œuvre et l'homme, Lausanne, 1984, another example illustrated p. 199

Franco Passoni, Reynolds Morse & Albert Field, Dalí nella terza Dimensione, Milan, 1986, another example illustrated p. 23

Conroy Maddox, Salvador Dalí, Excentricité et Génie, Cologne, 1988, another example illustrated p. 66

Robert Descharnes & Gilles Néret, Salvador Dalí, l'œuvre peint, Cologne, 1993, vol. I, no. 628, the 1936 version illustrated p. 279; vol. II, no. 628, the 1936 version catalogued p. 756

Robert & Nicolas Descharnes, Dalí: The Hard and the Soft, Sculptures & Objects, Azay-le-Rideau, 2004, no. 61, another example illustrated p. 33

Françoise Lechien, Dalí, Dalí!, Brussels, 2004, another example illustrated p. 64

Catalogue Note

'In carving out drawers in the most famous of female nudes Dalí here brings together the two symbolic ideas, of the woman-container and of the mysterious depths of the human psyche.'
Dawn Ades
in Dalí's Optical Illusions (exhibition catalogue), Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. & Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 2000, p. 118


The first version of this work was created in 1936 when Dalí, possibly with the technical assistance of Marcel Duchamp, modified a copy of the Vénus de Milo (fig. 2) incorporating six drawers. As a child, Dalí had made a terracotta copy of the famous Greek marble at the Musée du Louvre, and recalled: 'My first experience as a sculptor gave me an unknown and delicious erotic joy’ (quoted in Salvador Dalí Retrospektive (exhibition catalogue), Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart & Kunsthaus, Zurich, 1989, p. 206).


The motif evolved further while Dalí was staying in England with Edward James, the renowned collector and supporter of the Surrealists. William Jeffett explains: ‘At that time his English was practically non-existent, which could account for the misunderstanding that arose upon hearing someone talk of a “chest of drawers”. In interpreting this quite literally, Dalí in The Anthropomorphic Cabinet [fig. 1], as well as a number of drawings, was to show a reclining woman out of whose chest appeared numerous half-opened drawers. […] Further, the drawers suggest the obscure recesses of the human mind, in the sense of Freud’s conception of the unconscious’ (W. Jeffett in Dalí: The Centenary Retrospective (exhibition catalogue) Palazzo Grassi, Venice & The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 2004-05, p. 258). Dalí’s addition of fur in the place of the knobs adds a soft, tactile quality to the image, amplifying its erotic undertone.


In this work Dalí painted the bronze in white, thus tricking the viewer into believing that the sculpture is made of marble. The same theme of the Vénus de Milo with drawers appears in several drawings and a painting of 1936, Le Cabinet anthropomorphique (fig. 1). As Robert Descharnes explained: ‘Dalí viewed his own subject matter as an allegorical means of tracing the countless narcissistic fragrances that waft up from every one of our drawers (as he put it). And he declared that the sole difference between immortal Greece and the present day was Sigmund Freud, who had discovered that the human body, purely neo-platonic at the time of the Greeks, was now full of secret drawers which only psychoanalysis could pull open’ (R. Descharnes & G. Néret, op. cit., p. 276).