Maximum Speed of Raphael's Madonna

Salvador Dalí

Figueras, Girona, Spain, 1904 - 1989
  • Date: 
  • Technique: 
    Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 
    81 x 66 cm
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  • Entry date: 
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  • Salvador Dalí Bequest, 1990

Salvador Dalí’s interest in new scientific discoveries, particularly quantum physics and nuclear physics, is key to the works he produced in this time period. In Confesiones inconfesables (The Unspeakable Confessions, Bruguera, 1975) he recalled how “the atomic explosion from 6 August 1945 had seismically shaken me. From that moment on, the atom was my favourite subject of reflection.” In the same decade, the 1940s, this new fascination was combined with the artist moving closer to the Catholic religion, along with a return to Academic Art by virtue of themes that drew inspiration from Western tradition, such as the Renaissance in Italy, and the Golden Age in Spain. Both influences together would give rise to the so-called “atomic period”, and the publication of Manifiesto Místico (Mystic Manifesto, 1951), where Dalí explained the symbiosis that had lead him to the mystic-nuclear: “Every quarter of an hour and quarter of a second matter is in a constant and accelerated process of dematerialisation and disintegration, slipping through the grasp of the wise and showing us spirituality in all substance […]. In Maximum Speed of Raphael's Madonna the artist borrows the image of a Madonna by Raphael Sanzio, one of the great masters of the Renaissance and hugely admired by Dalí. The work synthesises great classical tradition through the theme of religion with the discoveries and experiences of modern art, engendering an image built from an interpretation of the theoretical principles of physics and art’s visual possibilities. The face of the Virgin breaks up into spheres, geometrically perfect figures, and into forms resembling rhinoceros horns as Dalí unearths logarithmic spiral forms based on the pattern of Divine Proportion. The dynamic movement of the elements is joined by the discontinuity of the matter, linking this work to the process of atomic disintegration.

Ruth Gallego Fernández