Salvador Dalí Gave a Most Remarkable Wedding Gift!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dalí Historian


Your Salvador Dalí historian is not averse to admitting when he’s ignorant about some things pertaining to the kingpin of Surrealism. Today’s blog demonstrates that.


As many times as I’ve seen this image, below, I confess to having not focused sufficiently enough on its title and, ultimately, on the intended result of its double-imagery.


Or should we say triple-imagery?




Triple Image – Portrait of Franco (1939) not only features an interesting and clever optical twist, but has a rather cool story associated with it, which was recently pointed out to me by Britain’s Nigel Simmins, a retired tavern owner who has one of the largest collections of Salvador Dalí memorabilia in the world.


First, let’s take a closer look at the work itself.


Within a Vermeer-inspired context, Dalí has ingeniously brought three images together as one. The large curtain at left forms the hair, nose and beard of a man in profile. In the center is a woman (borrowed from The Angelus by Millet) in floor-length garments, her head bowed.


At the same time, her head forms the right eye – and the picture hanging on the wall forms the left eye – of the resultant portrait that emerges from the extraordinary synthesis of these disparate elements. The woman’s shoulder/left arm forms the nose; the door knob an ear; and a highlight on the dress his mouth.


Perhaps most extraordinarily of all, these converging elements form not merely the face of a man, but a convincing portrait of Spain’s Francisco Franco. Squinting your eyes may help to bring the image in focus for you.


30714546_10215754006308354_4099326703828992000_n Francisco-Franco


It’s one thing to meld unrelated elements to achieve the illusion of a face. But to do so and make the image a likeness of a specific face – in this case that of Franco’s – is nothing short of genius!




Mr. Simmins tells me Mr. Dalí was very fond of Mrs. Moore. That’s Catherine Moore, wife of Dalí’s first secretary-manager, Capt. John Peter Moore. When “the captain” and Catherine were wed in 1970, Dalí gifted her this gouache painting, with a personal dedication written along the bottom.


But the extraordinary present came with a twist: it wasn’t actually given to Mrs. Moore until exactly one year after the wedding!


Simmins says Dalí feared that presenting Catherine with an original painting at the wedding would have created something of a publicity circus, “and Dalí did not want to subject Catherine to that,” recalls Simmins, who was a personal friend of Moore.


A year later – and only Dalí knew why he waited that long – he presented his secretary’s lovely wife with this remarkable work. “Dalí didn’t give many people a painting!” exclaims Simmins, noting that Dalí did sketches and little drawings for many fans, but that’s a far cry from gifting an original gouache.


I’ll say!


A side note: I briefly met Catherine Moore at poolside at the St. Petersburg Beach Hilton Hotel, during the opening days of the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1982. Capt. Moore and I had a drink together during that occasion, in the hotel’s top-floor revolving lounge. The colorful Irishman regaled with a host of stories about the Master, while knocking back a few Heineken beers.

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