Visage du Grand Masturbateur (Face of the Great Masturbator)

Salvador Dalí

Figueras, Girona, Spain, 1904 - 1989
  • Date: 
  • Technique: 
    Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 
    110 x 150 cm
  • Category: 
  • Entry date: 
  • Register number: 
  • Salvador Dalí Bequest, 1990

This painting, the quintessential symbol par excellence of his sexual obsessions, has even been commented upon by the artist himself in the best known of his literary works, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, published in 1942. Salvador Dalí painted the picture in late summer 1929, after spending a few days with Gala, who had decided to stay with him in Cadaqués, despite the fact that her husband at that time, the poet Paul Éluard, had returned to Paris alone, unaccompanied by his wife. As has been noted by Rafael Santos Torroella, Visage du Grand Masturbateur (Face of the Great Masturbator) is an eminently autobiographical painting: the large head of the masturbator is one of various personifications of the artist, who appears in several simultaneous scenes in the painting, reflecting the spiritual and erotic transformation that Dalí had just gone through as a result of Gala’s appearance in his life. This disturbing composition also shows Dalí’s fantasies reaching a zenith, especially with regard to the motif of the grasshopper suckling the principal metamorphosed figure, since – according to Dawn Ades – Dalí had from early childhood always had a particular terror of the insect.

Paloma Esteban Leal