Salvador Dalí

‘Persistence of Sound’ Earrings

Lot Closed

October 6, 04:45 PM GMT


150,000 - 200,000 USD

Lot Details


Salvador Dalí

1904 - 1989

‘Persistence of Sound’ Earrings

1949, each signed Dalí on fronts, 18k hallmarks

pair of 18k gold earrings in the form of melting telephone receivers with post fittings; at the top of each is a faceted, domed ruby and a double band of five and four small diamonds above a kinetic cabochon ruby teardrop; at bottom on each is a single band of four diamonds, a cabochon emerald, and a kinetic cabochon emerald teardrop; produced by Alemany & Ertman Inc., New York together with the original fitted burgundy leather box; interior lid lined in cream silk with mount covered in rich purple velvet, sticker on underside of box numbered 16255 1DA4 O

1⅞ by ⅝ in.; 4.7 by 1.6 cm.

Alemany & Ertman Inc., New York

Private collection, Europe (acquired from above)

Sotheby’s London: Fine Jewels, December 17, 2008 [Lot 249]

Acquired from above by current owner

Lida Livingston, Dalí, A Study of his Art-in-Jewels, The Collection of the Owen Cheatham Foundation, New York Graphic Society, New York, 1959, pp. 34-5, no. XII

Salvador Dalí Foundation, Dalí: Jewels – Joyas, The Collection of the Gala/Salvador Dalí Foundation, Umberto Allemandi, Turin, 2001, pp. 13, 58-61

Diane Venet, From Picasso to Jeff Koons: The Artist as Jeweler, Skira, Milan, 2011, pp. 78-79

Diane Venet, Bijoux d'Artistes, de Calder à Koons, la collection idéale de Diane Venet, Flammarion, Paris, 2018, this pair illustrated pp. 66-7, no. 58

Paola Stroppiana, Scultura Aurea, Gioielli d'Artista per un nuovo Rinascimento, Gli Ori, Pistoia, 2019, p. 83

New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1941 – 1942

Miami, Bass Museum of Art, From Picasso to Jeff Koons, The Artist as Jeweler, 2011

Artist Salvador Dalí is probably most famous for his work The Persistence of Memory (1931), a landscape painting of a distinct kind of unreality featuring melting clocks in the desert which now resides in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (162.1934). His surreal works -- which he did not restrict to oils or canvases but expanded to a variety of deftly-handled materials and methods -- are at turns astonishing, entertaining, and thought provoking. These Persistence of Sound earrings, featuring a pair of melting telephone receivers, are intriguing pieces of art in the same way. Are they meant to evoke the ear-melting effects of being on the telephone (in 1949, a device present in only 60% of American homes -- a jump of twenty percent from the previous decade) and listening to a chatty relative for too long? Perhaps the pains of a call from one’s erstwhile lover? The literal melting of hot plastic on a steamy day? Dalí has depicted these mechanical devices out of 18k gold and crowned a miracle of modern efficiency and communication with diamonds, emeralds, and rubies to elevate it to another dimension entirely: that of the unreal.

Dalí thought often on the question of ‘si le bijou a été fait pour la peinture ou si la peinture a été faite pour le bijou,’ (if the jewelry was made for the painting or if the painting was made for the jewelry) and determined that ‘ils ont été faits l'un pour l'autre, c’est un mariage d'amour’ (they were made for each other, it is a marriage of love). (Diane Venet, Bijoux d'Artistes, de Calder à Koons, la collection idéale de Diane Venet, Flammarion, Paris, 2018, p. 66)

He reproduced Persistence of Memory’s melted pocket watches into a gold-and-diamond brooch, and the theme of melting objects comes through strongly in these Persistence of Sound earrings. His heavy use of gold and precious gems was financed by shipping magnate Eric Ertman, allowing Dalí to utilize the materials that spoke to him most strongly regardless of cost. Charles Valliant of the New York goldsmithing firm Valliant and Devere took over the actual creation of the jewels that Dalí designed.

For the artist, born in 1904, telephones themselves may have always carried a surreal novelty, reminding him of ‘the hope and danger of instantaneous exchange of thought.’ (Lida Livingston, Dalí, A Study of his Art-in-Jewels, New York Graphic Society, New York, 1959, p. 34) And in these earrings, he moves the receivers away from the literal and into a figurative dimension that asks the wearer to spin their own tale around the piece. Unintentionally he has also created a call to the past, as though we have all used phones like those depicted in this piece for decades, even landline phones now look very different. The Persistence of Sound has taken on new dimensions as a work of nostalgia when it was once a marvel of modern technology and — if we may make a tasteful pun — a call to the future.