Thence by descent to the present owners
Paris, Galerie Pierre Colle, Salvador Dalí, 1933, no. 18
Arte, no. 2, 1933, illustrated
Domingo López Torres, 'Lo real y lo superreal en la pintura de Salvador Dalí', in Gaceta de Arte, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 1934, n.p.
'Exposición Surrealista', in Gaceta de Arte, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 1935, n.p.
Robert Descharnes & Gilles Néret, Salvador Dalí, The Paintings, Cologne, 1994, vol. I, no. 515, illustrated p. 230; vol. II, no. 515, catalogued p. 753 (titled Sans titre and as dating from 1933-34)
La Sociedad de artistas ibéricos y el arte español de 1925 (exhibition catalogue), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 1995, illustrated p. 96
Salvador Dalí, catalogue raisonné de peintures, no. 377, illustrated (www.salvador-dalí.org)
Combining the artist’s memory of rock formations of Cape Creus near Port Lligat with fanciful images from his own imagination, the horse recurs in several paintings and a number of drawings of this period, and over the next several years would become one of Dalí’s main themes developed in the series Chevalier de la mort. Images of the horse and the car both appear in a major oil La mémoire de la femme-enfant of 1929 (fig. 2), where they are part of a larger phantasmagorical ensemble. The car is also a recurring theme in Dalí’s iconography; in the 1930s it is often depicted fossilised or made out of bricks, with plants and branches creeping out of its interior. Arguably its most famous incarnation in Dalí’s œuvre was in the shape of Taxi pluvieux, an actual taxi occupied by several mannequins covered by live snails, which was first displayed in 1938 in front of Galerie Beaux-Arts in Paris for the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme.
Most significantly, the two anthropomorphic rocks are related to the famous nineteenth-century painting L’Angélus by Jean-François Millet, which inspired a number of Dalí’s works from this period. In some compositions Dalí makes a direct reference to Millet’s masterpiece, by placing two figures, which are obvious visual references to the man and woman in L’Angélus, in a Dalíesque landscape. In the present work, however, the allusion is less direct. As in L’Angélus architectonique de Millet of 1933 (fig. 3), the two figures have been transformed into gigantic rocks that dominate the surrounding landscape. The right-hand rock, standing for the female figure, is depicted in profile with her head slightly bowed, echoing the original pose of the peasant woman. Furthermore, her shape is penetrated by the spears that extend from the body of her male companion.
In her discussion of Dalí’s works from the early 1930s inspired by L’Angélus, Dawn Ades wrote: ‘The mutations to which Dalí subjects the couple in his paintings respond to the new scenario provided by his paranoiac interpretation. Eroticism and extinction govern the transformations: the figures are turned to stone, or huge brick ruins […]. Dalí invests the two figures with sexual potency’ (D. Ades in Dalí: The Centenary Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), Palazzo Grassi, Venice & The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 2004-05, p. 192). At the same time, the male and female figures symbolise Dalí and Gala, who had met several years previously; by transforming the Catalan rocks into anthropomorphic and sexually charged images, the artist eroticises the landscape that witnessed his first delirious encounters with Gala.
Dawn Ades traces the artist’s obsession with L’Angélus: ‘In 1932, Millet’s Angelus suddenly presented itself to Dalí in a vivid mental image, without warning or conscious association. Its profound effect on him was quite out of proportion to the apparent character of this innocent devotional painting. Millet’s peasant couple, who pause from their rural labor to pray at the sound of Angelus bell from the distant church, their wheelbarrow and pitchfork lying idle, had become one of the most popular and massively reproduced Christian images. […] But the painting for Dalí was charged now with a quite different emotional impact and had become “the most troubling, most enigmatic, densest and richest in unconscious thoughts that had ever existed.” He recalled that as a child at the Christian Brothers’ school in Figueres, a copy of the Angelus had “produced in me an obscure anguish, so poignant that the memory of those two motionless silhouettes pursued me for several years.” It then “disappeared completely from my imagination.” This sudden hallucinatory return of the Angelus [in the 1930s] inaugurated an extraordinary series of visual images as well as one of the most remarkable interpretations of a picture ever written: his book The Tragic Myth of Millet’s Angelus’ (ibid., p. 190).
Although Dalí wrote The Tragic Myth of Millet’s Angelus in the 1930s, the book was not published until 1963. In this text, ‘Dalí analyses, in the manner of a Freudian case history, the encounters and fantasies – what he calls the “secondary delirious phenomena” – that accompanied his obsession with the painting. […] The secondary phenomena include […]a fantasy in which the two figures are carved into the “delirious geology” of the rocks at Cap Creus, fissured and eroded’ (ibid., p. 190). It is precisely this fantasy of ‘delirious geology’ that stands at the centre of Maison pour érotomane, which brings together key elements of Dalí’s art from this pivotal period: his obsession with Millet’s composition, a continuous fixation on the theme of eroticism and death, as well as his obsession with the rock formations of his native Catalan landscape in which he spent his early, most intense and erotically charged experiences with Gala.
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