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Salvador Dalí died 25 years ago

Memories of the surrealist and his „Divina Comedia" by Dante

By B. John Zavrel


  Salvador Dali with a tame ocelot in the year 1965 in New York. The acquisition of several of these fascinating animals was arranged by Dalí's manager and friend, Captain Peter Moore. He kept the animals in his garden park with a swimming-pool (also for the animals) in Cadaques. Dalí took out the unusual animals to his great public appearances. They were also admired, when Dalí had receptions for the media in his house at the sea, or in Paris.

Foto: wikipedia


Figueres/New York (mea) Salvador Dali died 25 years ago. It was on January 23, 1989, when Dalí closed his eyes in his native town Figueres (Girona, Catalonia). In order to honor this art genius, today in the month of January 2014, we remember his massive illustration of a text of world literature: "The Divine Comedy" by Dante Alighieri. These illustrations by Dalí contain 100 color pictures. They fascinate us by their depiction and also by the joyful colors in the quality of the watercolors.

Dante Alighieri (1265 in Florenz till September 14, 1321 in Ravenna) was a poet and a philosopher who wrote in the Italian language. He passed over as the author of the Divine Comedy" the Latin, which had dominated until that time, and set up the Italian language as a language of great literature. Today, Dante is the most known poet of the Italian language and is esteemed as one of the most significant poets of the European Middle Ages.


The great journey to the other side

The story of the Divine Comedia is "the great journey" to the afterlife. Dante transports himself into this imaginary wanderings in the search of his platonic love, the beautiful, young Bearice. During this adventurous and dangerous undertaking he must first pass through the depths of Hell, then through Purgatorio, until he finally reaches the heavenly Paradise. It is there, where he sees Beatrice in divine light in her full beauty.

These visionary images of the poet interested Dalí, who liked to hear to be referred to as "the divine". In addition, he made a connection between himself and his wife Gala with the relationship between Dante and Beatrice.


 "LA DIVINA COMEDIA"--Dieser einzigartige Farbkatalog von Salvador Dalí zeigt alle 100 aquarellartigen Illustrationen zur "Göttlichen Komödie" von Dante. Die repräsentativen, auch ganzseitigen Abbildungen aus dem Zyklus Hölle-Fegefeuer-Paradies werden mit erklärenden Texten zu den 100 Gesängen (Cantos) beschrieben. Der Katalog kostet 18 Euro plus Porto. Bitte richten Sie Bestellungen aus Europa an Marco-vg@t-online.de Bestellungen aus USA und Kanada an zavrel@meaus.com

Foto: Art-Press


Dante researchers collect quotes

How much was Dalí involved in the themes of the Divine Comedy, can be seen in quotes, which Dalí researchers and lovers collected over the years.

Thus, in the year 1950 during an interview, Dalí answered the question what got him interested to illustrate "The Divine Comedy". In reply he gave insights into the situation of the project: "I was given a commission to create a monumental task, and I plan to complete it this summer in Cadaqués. It is a work which both attracts and possesses me, since I see both its aspects also in my own life. The book has enchanted me, and in my mind I see by work already completed."

As eventually things did not go as well with the project as was promised to him originally, Dalí reported two years later how he was able to turn a threatening disaster into a lucrative advantage: "Finally I was able to triple (my commission) under the circumstances, which were even more remarkable to do the fact that I dealt with the Italian government. The minister of culture at the time gave me the commission to illustrate Dante's Divine Comedy. I had sent out the watercolor paintings for the illustrations, the state printer Instituto Poligrafico dello Stato prepared the plates for at least seven of the pictures in the original size, I received my money and was happy about it. Then suddenly there erupted a scandal in Rome. A member of the opposition found out that the commission was awarded to a foreign artist, a Spaniard (namely, Dalí) to illustrate the work of the greatest poet in Italian history. With an incomparable chauvinism, Italy's members of the parliament closed the ranks behind him against this treason against the soul of Italy."


A Frenchman saves the project

That the illustrated Dante poem became a reality in spite of these setbacks, happened thanks to a French publisher. The continuation of this "drama' was outlined by Dalí in his flowery speaking manner" "The government (in Rome) was shaken in its foundations. I found myself to be offended and determined to amuse myself. But the minister, who did not know how to dodge his head from the flying tomatoes, did not know what to do, and he begged me not to take legal actions. He offered me to keep the money and the finished plates under the condition that one will not talk any more in Italy about an edition by Dalí. I kept my work and turned over the rights for the double price to a French publisher (in 1960 to Joseph Fôret)."

Dalí also gave reasons, why the illustrations were in color and with an air of mysticism and not at all like other illustrations by him in black. "The Romanticism has caused us to think that Hell is black, just like the charcoal mines by Gustave Dorés, in which one does not see anything. No, the Inferno by Dalí is lit by the sun and the honey of the Mediterranean."


Dalí-Dante: Exhibition for the 110th birthday anniversary

Exhibition „La Divina Comedia" by Salvador Dalí will take place in Germany in 2014, on the occasion of the 110th birthday anniversary at the Museum of European Art at the Noervenich Castle near Cologne) www.schloss-nörvenich.de and schloss-Noervenich@gmx.de

In USA: "La Divina Comedia" by Salvador Dalí, Museum of European Art in Clarence, New York.




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PROMETHEUS, Internet Bulletin for Art, News, Politics and Science, Nr. 197, January 2014