By Paul Chimera
Salvador Dalí Historian
I wish blogs could somehow give readers an actual tactile sensation of how certain paintings by Salvador Dalí can make a person feel. I don’t know about you, but there’s something about certain Dalí’s that stir my sense of awe, wonderment, and passion more than others.
It’s hard to describe, and even more so to understand, unless you’ve felt it yourself. Even then, such works can leave us with the unresolved mystery of just why we connect with them so strongly. And why, from a physical, tactile perspective, they can literally make the hair on your arms stand up! (That happened to a Dalí expert recently; read further for the tingly details!)
One such work occupies this blog’s spotlight today. It’s a rarely seen, seldom considered, not widely exhibited, unique and spectacular little 1956 gem called Anti-Protonic Assumption.
This approximately 24 inch x 28 inch oil on canvas was painted when Salvador Dalí was completely drenched with excitement and wonder over new discoveries about the nature of matter, thanks to hard-working nuclear physicists.
The title alone gives us an essential key to what this painting meant to Dalí. According to a web source, an antiproton “is the antiparticle of the proton. Antiprotons are stable, but they are typically short-lived, since any collision with a proton will cause particles to be annihilated in a burst of energy” (italics mine).
Who better than Salvador Dalí to express pictorially an antiprotonic “burst of energy”! Especially when he could wrap the idea around an image of his beloved wife, Gala, and his burgeoning belief that science was pointing more and more to the truths of Christianity.
And we see Gala not once, but twice in this painting, which hangs in the Morohashi Museum of Modern Art in Fukushima, Japan. (Ironically, the Morohashi owns another masterful Dalí painting that also features Gala’s portrait twice: The Battle of Tetuan of 1962).
First, of course, in Anti-Protonic Assumption, we see Gala as the ascending Madonna figure, bursting with energy, her body explosively composed of hundreds of dazzling atomic-like particles. The form of those particles echo the outsized rhinoceros horn on the left side of her elongated, El Greco-like body, representing Dalí’s obsession with the fact that the rhino horn is a naturally occurring logarithmic curve.
Gala’s huge crown or halo adds sovereignty to an already exalted figure, at a time when Gala and Dalí were still an inseparable pair. The crown here also relates to Dalí’s fascination with a dramatic slow-motion film made with high-speed photography years ago of a splashing drop of milk, creating the same kind of crown effect.
The center of the crown above Gala also appears a bit like an oculus, with light streaming through – reminiscent of Dalí’s Raphaelesque Head Exploding of 1951.
A comparison surely must be made between Anti-Protonic Assumption and Dalí’s much, much larger 1952 picture, Assumpta Corpuscularia Lapislazulina.
The second appearance of Gala in Anti-Protonic Assumption is seen in the lower right. Her pose is quoted directly from the classic painting, Virgin of the Rocks (1483), by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Dalí’s veneration of the Renaissance masters was well understood, and here he nods both to Leonardo directly and El Greco more subtlety in the elongation of the central figure of Gala.
“It is so detailed!” enthused Dr. Elliott King, a Dalí expert and friend, who just returned from an eye-opening Dalí adventure in Japan.
King was talking about Anti-Protonic Assumption, adding: “It’s really lovely, and the blues and pinks are bright.” He noted there is slight impasto on the flowers coming out of the tomb/box. “It blew me away…seeing it in person was a surprise…it may be my new favorite painting.”
(Images used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes only)