Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989) Chair de poule rhinocérontique, ou Rhinocéros cosmique 140cm(55 1/8in) (height)
Lot 24AR W
Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989) Chair de poule rhinocérontique, ou Rhinocéros cosmique 140cm(55 1/8in) (height)
£150,000 - 250,000
US$ 250,000 - 410,000
Lot Details
Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989)
Chair de poule rhinocérontique, ou Rhinocéros cosmique
signed, numbered and stamped with the foundry mark 'Salvador Dali/ 7/8/ CIRE/ C.VALSUANI/ PERDUE' (to the underside)
bronze with dark green patina
140cm(55 1/8in) (height)
Conceived in 1956 and cast by the Valsuani Foundry in 1991 in a numbered edition of 8 plus 4 artist's proofs (EA), 2 non-commercial proofs (HCM) and one foundry proof (HCF)

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE
    Presented by the Valsuani foundry to the present owner.

    LITERATURE
    R. and N. Descharnes, Dalí, The Hard and the Soft, Spells of the Magic of Form, Paris, 2004, pp.70-71, fig.152 (another cast illustrated p.71).

    Rhinocéros cosmique represents the summation of a number of Dalí's obsessions from the 1950s, as arranged in a bewildering formula expounded by the artist to Robert Descharnes at Cadaqués in the summer of 1954: 'nebulous = Lacemaker = rhinoceros horn = corpuscular and logarithmic granulation of the cauliflower = granulation of the sea urchin, this shudder of creation' (R. and N. Descharnes, op. cit., p.66).

    Each element of this formula can be related to The Prodigious Adventure of the Lacemaker and the Rhinoceros, the extraordinary film project that Dalí worked on from 1951 to 1962, with Robert Descharnes as director and amanuensis. The film, described as a 'cinematic symphony', was driven by Dalí's adherence to his paranoiac-critical method of surrealist invention and as a result almost defies description. The roots of each element can to a certain extent be divined.

    The Lacemaker is Vermeer's painting of that title in the Louvre, which Dalí had first encountered as a reproduction on the wall of his father's study. Vermeer stood at the head of the trinity of Dalí's favourite artists, ahead of Raphael and Velásquez, with The Lacemaker as the ideal image. The picture appears first in a scene in Un Chien Andalou, the pivotal surrealist film Dalí made with Luis Buñuel in 1929. The obsession reappears in 1954 when Dalí was granted permission to make copies of the original in the Louvre. This coincided with his investigations into the logarithmic spiral, a mathematical progression which he saw as an element in an underlying natural system linking God and nature. The logarithmic spiral also guides the process by which a rhinoceros horn grows, much as it does the development of a snail's shell, the seeds in a sunflower head and the arrangements of the florets in a cauliflower. He underlined the importance of this discovery in his lecture at the Sorbonne in December 1955 entitled Phenomenological Aspects of the Paranoiacal Critical Method, to which he was driven in a Rolls Royce filled with cauliflowers.

    The combination of Vermeer and rhinoceros appears again in Paranoiac-Critical Study of Vermeer's Lacemaker of 1955 (New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), in which the young lacemaker is herself besieged by a maelstrom of rhino horns. In the same year, as part of the ongoing investigations documented in The Prodigious Adventure of the Lacemaker and the Rhinoceros, Dalí took a large reproduction of The Lacemaker to the enclosure of François the Rhinoceros at Vincennes Zoo, and painted the results with the intention of seeing 'a rhincerontic Lacemaker spring up from the canvas' (Robert Descharnes, quoted in R. and N. Descharnes, op. cit., p.61; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbhzowNipuk accessed 19 December 2012).

    The representation of the rhinoceros in the present sculpture derives from Dürer's celebrated woodcut of 1515, a reproduction of which also hung in Dalí's childhood home. That animal was a specimen sent from Portugal's Indian territories to Lisbon and was intended by King Manuel I as a present for the Pope (although it died in a shipwreck on the onward journey to Rome). Dürer never saw the rhinoceros, and his heavily armoured almost mechanical representation was made from written descriptions. Present, however, is the puckered hide so similar to human 'goose flesh' which fascinated Dalí and which is repeated in Rhinocéros cosmique.

    The final element is the sea urchin, a fundamental trope in the Dalínian vocabulary, which first appears twinned with the rhinoceros on the plinth of the Madonna of Port Lligat of 1950 (Tokyo, Private collection). The artist explained the genesis of the sea urchin as 'the fear felt by a droplet of water to lose its beauty and purity at the instant of its first fall to earth. Seized with dread, this original drop, who was afflicted with this first great shiver of creation, saw how its surface was first angered and produced goose flesh' (R. and N. Descharnes, op. cit., p.70).

    The sea urchin and the rhinoceros are further linked in the Miss Chair de Poule scene from Paranoiac-Critical Study of Vermeer's Lacemaker, filmed in November 1954 and again in November 1956, in which Dalí tried to provoke goose bumps in the armpit of a prone woman by dragging a bundle of bayonets across a marble slab, as Robert Descharnes recalls, 'the goose bumps were supposed to recall the texture of a sea urchin, the granulations of a cauliflower, the spiralled grains of a sunflower and even the rear end of an Asian rhinoceros' (R. and N. Descharnes, op. cit., p.64).

    'The osmosis sea urchin/rhinoceros was present at every instant in Dalí's research for our film, The Prodigious Adventure of the Lacemaker and the Rhinoceros. At the end of autumn, one morning we were eating freshly fished sea urchins from Gala's boat, as was our custom. Dalí proposed to complete The Rhinoceros Dressed in Lace with the legs of giraffe, like the elephants in his painting The Temptation of Saint Anthony with a pyramid of sea-urchins on his back for the film. Rhinocerontic Goose Flesh, known as Rhinocéros cosmique, was born.' (R. and N. Descharnes, op. cit., p.70). The layout was finalised in a drawn instruction for the film in pencil and collage, now in a private collection (R. and N. Descharnes, op. cit., fig.151).

    In an interview with Alain Bosquet in 1969 Dalí declared that he dreamt of seeing his monumental statue erected 'exactly at the spot where, at the Trocadéro, a bronze effigy of a rhinoceros once existed. I want it to be a cosmic rhinoceros.' (quoted in R. and N. Descharnes, op. cit., p.70). He was perhaps remembering August Cain's Combat between a rhinoceros and two tigers of 1882 which stood in the Tuilleries within sight of his apartment at the Hôtel Meurice.
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