Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) Le Jour de la Vierge 24 x 18 7/8 in (60.9 x 48.1 cm)  (Painted in September 1947)

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Lot 42
Salvador Dalí
Le Jour de la Vierge 24 x 18 7/8 in (60.9 x 48.1 cm)

Sold for US$ 137,000 inc. premium
Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
Le Jour de la Vierge
signed, inscribed and dated 'Jour de la Vierge [4, possibly amended to 7] Septembre pour L'ovivone de Port Lligat plus d'amour que jamais de son Salvador Dali de Figueras 1947' (lower right)
pen and ink and watercolor on paper
24 x 18 7/8 in (60.9 x 48.1 cm)
Painted in September 1947


    Ralph Aquino, New York (acquired from the artist).
    Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 5 November 1981, lot 417, where acquired by the present owner.

    This work is recorded in the Descharnes archives; the authenticity has been confirmed by Nicolas Descharnes.

    Le Jour de la Vierge is dedicated by Dali to his wife Gala 'with more love than ever', using the pet name 'ovivone' (often written as 'olivone'). Dali identifies himself, with uncharacteristic modesty, as simply a native of his hometown of Figueras, and Gala as mistress of Port Lligat, their house on the Catalan coast. The dating may also be significant: it appears to read 4 September, amended to 7 September, but then blotted: 7 September was Gala's fifty-third birthday. Dali and Gala had left Europe in 1940 on the same ship as Marcel Duchamp, and didn't return until July 1948. This watercolor shows the coastline at Cadaqués with the distinctive ruined tower on a terraced hill: together with the references to Figueras and Port Lligat this work may be a reflection Dali's desire to return to Europe.

    The meaning of the pet name 'ovivone' is obscure, perhaps intentionally as so often with Dali, but it is certainly cognate with the Spanish, French and Catalan words for both egg and olive. As Dali wrote in his Fifty Secrets of Master Craftsmanship, published in the same year as the present watercolor, 'You must know, then, that oil painting fell in love with Gala at first sight, and that she became from that moment her constant and exclusive model and was henceforth called her olive, because of the color and volume of the oval of her face, which resembles that of a Mediterranean olive as two drops of oil resemble each other' (S. Dali, Fifty Secrets of Master Craftsmanship, New York, 1947, p. 80).

    Gala Dali (1894-1982) was born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova in the Kazan province of the Russian Empire, and trained initially to be a teacher. In 1912, while undergoing treatment for tuberculosis in Switzerland, she began an affair with the poet Paul Eluard. She fled Russia in 1916 and married Eluard in Paris the following year. Her introduction into the Surrealist circle had a profound effect, and she attracted, inspired and confounded many artists including Max Ernst and André Breton. In 1929 Gala and Eluard travelled to Spain to meet Dali, and the two formed an immediate and powerful relationship. They married in 1934. Gala was muse, model and more to Dali, and he often signed his works with her name.

    In the later 1940s Dali was profoundly affected by the revelation of the atom bomb detonations at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The dawn of this new age, with the possibilities of immense and mysterious power, coincided with his own reversion to a more mystical idiom in a development from his previous self-styled 'paranoiac-critical method'. In this he reconnected with the Old Masters, particularly Leonardo da Vinci and Vermeer, and with the mystical Catholicism of his native Spain. The wiry lines of the landscape with its elaborate geology clearly recall the background of paintings by Leonardo (notably the Mona Lisa), while the blue-swathed attenuated Madonna looks back to Spanish masters such as Bartolome Murillo and Alonso Cano.

    Dali developed these themes in the two versions of La Madonne de Port Lligat (1949 and 1950) in which Gala overtly takes the role of the Renaissance Madonna, set against the same rocky coast, and again reprises the background, with the same motif of a figures at a quay, in the lower register of his great mystical painting Christ of St John of the Cross (1951).
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