Dalí’s Double-Imagery was a Hallmark of his Genius

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dalí Historian


With summer just seven days away, let’s embrace a lovely little motif that Salvador Dalí employed in a number of his works – whether oil paintings, prints, watercolors, even three-dimensional items.


I’m talking about his double-image of birds in a sunny sky that collectively form a human face. When people try to define just what it was about Salvador Dalí that set him apart from his contemporaries, one distinction that emerges is his invention and application of his unique creative process known as the Paranoiac-Critical method. That’s going to be the subject of a forthcoming blog post here at The Salvador Dalí Society®.


But another clear hallmark of Dalí’s surrealism was his mastery of double-imagery. It was a kind of optical playground he loved to romp around in, and quite frequently.




The birds/face visual trope was seen perhaps most picturesquely in his watercolor over pencil on board painting titled Dance of the Flower Maidens (1942). I think it’s one of the most sensuous and beautiful pictures of Dalí’s prodigious career.


The double-image is obviously seen in the six doves in the middle of the circular work (it was designed for a porcelain plate) that form the eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth and chin of the woman’s face.


Dalí also perpetuated the women with heads of roses idea that was first seen in his Woman with Head of Roses of 1935.




A similar appearance of the face comprised of birds in flight was seen in the large wall panel Salvador Dalí painted for cosmetics queen Helena Rubinstein’s New York City apartment. It was one of three such panels he created for her, sold some years back at Christie’s or Sotheby’s auction. He also painted a somewhat controversial portrait of Rubinstein, chained to a cliff by a string of pearls.


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The birds/face double-imagery turns up yet again on one side of a silver Israeli-commissioned Peace Medal Dalí designed, in this case the sides of the face formed by two olive branches – the traditional symbol of peace.




The repetition of images and leitmotifs in the artist’s work was all part of what was known as Dalínian Continuity. It was a purposeful reappearance of certain images throughout Dalí’s oeuvre.


This phenomenon alone – this carefully planned, carefully executed linkage – is enough to form the basis of a detailed study. Perhaps a book. Because it rather ingeniously tied things together through the long arc of his career. Even small, esoteric details found in his works of the 1920s returned in paintings and prints and other works many decades later.


Just further evidence of the man’s genius.


(Images used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes only.)