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Portrait of Joella

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  • Date: 
    1933-1934
  • Material: 
    Plaster, wood and crystal
  • Technique: 
    Water-based paint and oil
  • Descriptive technique: 
    Work painted by Salvador Dalí after an original plaster bust made by Man Ray in 1933
  • Dimensions: 
    40,5 x 17,5 x 18,2 cm
  • Category: 
    Sculpture
  • Entry date: 
    1997
  • Register number: 
    AD00235
  • Donation of the Asociación de Amigos del Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 1995
  • On display in:
Salvador Dalí produced three kinds of Surrealist Objects: those involving movement, those known as “dream objects” and the object assemblages. The second type, with no movement and primarily of sculptural value, includes Portrait of Joella, a piece made for exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in 1934. The exhibition consisted of paintings, objects and a group of painted plaster casts, including Portait of Joella, a pictorial intervention on a plaster portrait that Man Ray had done of the gallery owner’s wife, Joella Bayer. This is an object produced at the height of Dalí’s paranoiac-critical method, an approach that opened up connections between images and their hidden meanings, frequently related to sexuality and death. The head is standing on a base on which Dalí painted a version of his 1928 work Carne de gallina inaugural (Inaugural Goose Flesh). Above that, the face is divided into two halves: the right-hand side is a brick wall following the contours of the face, which seems to be trying to oppress the landscape growing on the left-hand side that can also be seen through a hole in the wall. The sky contains the Andrea Mantegna-inspired elongated clouds that also appear at the start of Un Chien Andalou, and certain other elements, such as the covered female figure and the ants crawling over the face have been taken as metaphors for desire that come from Dalí’s personal catalogue of iconography. By uniting these elements, the work comes to represent the artist’s passage from canonical surrealism to a dedication to mass-culture and the society of the spectacle, which was to begin with his first stay in the USA.

Carmen Fernández Aparicio

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