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Salvador Dali as a designer: «The ideal thing for me is a jewelry»

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Having convinced himself in the universality of his talent once, Salvador Dali made the whole world to believe in it. As a jewelry designer, he created a luxurious collection of 37 items with a unique surreal charm.

"The ideal thing for me is one that is absolutely useless. You can not write with this object, remove excessive hair or call. This item can not be placed on a masterpiece or put on a chest of drawers of Louis XIV. This thing you just need to wear, and it’s jewelry" - Salvador Dali
Salvador Dali next to his work "The Royal Heart". Photo: www.
Salvador Dalí, Carlos Alemany "The Eye of Time", 1949, platinum, diamonds, ruby, enamel, clock with Movado 50SP mechanism.
Photo: www. artsy
''Futility is the first condition of luxury" — S. Dali

Some of the jewelry fantasies of Salvador Dali have become iconic works in the art of XX century. The artist’s favorite pieces were "The Elephant of Space (1961), "The Eye of Time" (1949) with a tear in the corner, an exciting and sensual "Ruby Lips" (1949) and a pulsing "The Royal Heart" (1953).

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Salvador Dalí "Ruby Lips", 1949, gold, rubies, pearls
Salvador Dalí "The Space Elephant", 1961, gold, emeralds, rubies, diamonds,
aquamarine, clock with Omega mechanism with reference 440

The meeting of Catalan surrealist and Sicilian duke-jeweler at an abandoned American farm

In 1941, Salvador Dalí and Gala had an extended stay at the Virginia plantation owned by wealthy American arts patron Caresse Crosby. Dali was connected by close friendship with her since Paris. In 1934 Caresse sponsored his first trip to America. The "literary godmother to the Lost Generation of expatriate writers in Paris", as they called Caresse Crosby, edited the autobiography of Dali.

Salvador Dalí, Gala and Caresse Crosby in Hampton Manor, Virginia, 1941
Dali seemed to had become so homesick that he began to work in nature, although earlier the artist did not like to paint in the open air, preferring a cozy workshop. Spirit of the old South captivated Dali and he interpretedit in his own way among the ghosts of Hampton Manor. The snow weather suggested a black-and-white composition and surrealist imagination immediately born funny picture, which he called "The Effect of Seven Negroes, a Black Piano, and Two Black Pigs on the Snow".

S. Dali at work on the composition "The Effect of Seven Negroes, a Black Piano, and Two Black Pigs on the Snow"", 1941
Caresse Crosby invited Italian jewelry designer Duke Fulco di Verdura to get him acquainted with Dali, suggesting their future collaboration. Verdura had made a name for himself and good reputation by that time, working as a textile designer for Coco Chanel for several years. In 1939 he opened the doors to his jewelry business in New York.

Apparently, in order to test the guest, Dali decided to trick the designer. Upon his arrival to Hampton Manor, however, the young duke was aghast. Rather than the elegant mansion he had imagined, he was welcomed into a desolate ruin lacking both electricity and heat.

Verdura wrote about his surreal encounter with Dalí at the socialite’s rickety old Hampton Manor:

"In the sitting room it was deathly cold. Everyone had an overcoat on. I had put off mine when I first came in and by then it was too numb to ask for it." Dalí kept saying: "It is the atelier of Picasso". I have never seen this one; but I am told it is of the same squalor with no ashtray emptied since the Blue period."

Fulco di Verdura "Fulco's arrival in Virginia", watercolor

The tale’s happy ending reveals the encounter was Dali’s elaborate joke, and Verdura, who also loved the farce, thoroughly and immediately agreed to collaborate with surrealist. And Crosby’s real house seemed to him "the picture of comfort and delight." Finally, Verdura described the visit as "a tremendous success", because they began working on a set of jewels that debuted in 1941 at the Julien Levy Gallery alongside with the new paintings by Salvador Dali, and later at the Museum of Modern Art as a part of a joint Dalí-Miró show.
  • Salvador Dali's artwork
  • Fulco di Verdura "Apollo and Daphne", gold, pink tourmaline, turquoise, rubies. Miniature by Dalí.
"Saint Sebastian" from the collection of 2016 from the Verdura, based on the work of Verdura and Dali.
"Fulco and I have tried to discover whether it was the jewel that was for painting or painting for the jewel. We are sure, however, that they were born for each other; it’s a love marriage." — Salvador Dalí
Brooch "Medussa" designed by Fulco di Verdura, 1941, Parchment, gouache. Miniature by Salvador Dalí.
Cigarette case "Spider". 1941. Gold, antique ivory, opals, pearls, lacquer, miniature painting by Salvador Dali

Carlos Alemany

Throughout the 1950s, Dalí dreamed up ever more intricate and fantastical designs, besides his work was no longer included in Surrealist shows, as they had expelled him from their movement. Dali had instead begun to style himself as an artist in the tradition of the Renaissance masters:
"Paladin of a new Renaissance, I too refuse to be confined. My art encompasses physics, mathematics, architecture, nuclear science — the psycho-nuclear, the mystico-nuclear — and jewelry — not paint alone." In Renaissance times the great masters did not confine themselves to a single means of expression. "The genius of Leonardo da Vinci goes far beyond painting. His scientific spirit comprehended the possibility of miracles in the depths of the sea and in the air, which today have become a reality. Benvenuto Cellini, Botticelli and da Luca treated gemstones for jewelry, creating extraordinary beauty ornamental cups and bowls, decorated with stones".

S. Dali "Chalice of Life", 1965, gold, yellow diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, lapis lazuli, with moving mechanism and reducer which makes the butterflies' wings move. Photo: Richard Lozin

Tango together: Dali meets Carlos Alemany

Dali’s desire came true with the help of jeweler Carlos Alemany.
A native of Buenos Aires, Carlos Alemany spent the 1930's as conductor of a tango orchestra touring Latin America, Europe and the United States. In the 1940's he settled in New York and learned the jeweler’s trade, and in the 1950's, when he met Dali, Alemany could realized complicated visions of the genius of Surrealism. The designers collaborated until 1971.

Jewels were crafted from luxurious arrays of sapphires, emeralds, lapis lazuli, or malachite from the Belgian Congo.

As well as designing jewelery, Salvador Dalí also selected the materials to be used, focusing not only in the colors or the value of the material, but also on the symbolic meaning and connotations attributed to the precious stones and noble metals.

S. Dali "The Royal Heart", 1953, gold, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, aquamarines, chrysolite, garnets, amethyst, diamonds, pearls

Some of Dali’s works have mechanisms and can move. "Living Flower" opens and closes petals-hands, "Ruby Heart" beats, and "Fallen Angel" flaps its wings

S. Dali "The Living Flower", 1959. Detail. Photo:
  • S. Dali "The Living Flower", 1959. Gold, diamonds, malachite block
  • S. Dali "The Living Flower", 1959

Before 1970 the genius of Surrealism created only 39 drawings on paper, and 37 pieces of jewelry were made based on them. Twenty two of them were acquired by the American millionaire Cummins Catherwood, and in 1958 the others went to the Owen Cheatham Foundation. In 1981 it was acquired by a Saudi multimillionaire, and later on by three Japanese entities.

In 1999 Dalí Foundation bought the jewelery collection for 5,5 million euros. Today, 39 jewels, born of the surrealistic fantasies of Dali, can be seen at the Dalí Theatre-Museum of Figueres.

S. Dali "Grapes of Immortality". "Angel of Eternity", 1970. Fragment. Gold, amethysts, emeralds, smoky quartz. Photo: Richard Lozin

S. Dali "Grapes of Immortality". "Angel of Eternity", 1970. Gold, amethysts, emeralds, smoky quartz. Photo: Richard Lozin
The difference between false jewels and true ones is that the false ones always looks the most real, the most brilliant. Therefore, there is a very tempting idea — to make real jewelry so deceptive that they could be like false ones" - Salvador Dali

Salvador Dalí, Carlos Alemany. The Honeycomb Heart, 1949, gold, diamonds, rubies.
Salvador Dalí. Necklace with Entwined Limbs (Choreographic Necklace), c. 1964, gold, diamonds, amethyst, sapphire.
Salvador Dalí "Swam Lake", 1959, gold, diamonds, sapphire, aquamarine, emerald, rock crystals. Photo: Richard Lozin
"Anthropomorphic themes appear and reappear in my jewels. I see the human form in trees, leaves, animals; I see animal and vegetal characteristics in humans…"
Salvador Dalí

"…My art — in painting, diamonds, rubies, pearls, emeralds, gold, chrysolite — demonstrates how metamorphosis comes about; human beings create and change. When they sleep, they change totally — into flowers, plants, trees. The new metamorphosis takes place in Heaven. The body becomes once again whole and reaches perfection."

Salvador Dalí. "Leaf Veined Hand", 1949, gold, emerald, rubies. Photo: Richard Lozin

"In jewels, and in all my artistic activity, I create what I love most. In my artworks the logarithmic law is highlighted, as well as the interrelation between spirit and matter, between space and time." — Salvador Dalí
Salvador Dalí, Carlos Alemany "Pax Vobiscum", 1968, gold, Gold leaf (on the inside), diamonds, citrine (quartz), oil on wooden panel. Photo: Richard Lozin
Salvador Dalí "Twig Cross", 1959 gold, platinum, diamonds, rubies, emeralds. Photo: Richard Lozin

The Angel Cross, 1960. Tecnique: oil and liquid amber over the sculpture of pure gold; with moving mechanism and reducer which makes the spines move.

Pure yellow gold (figure), platinum forming spines, citrine (quartz), diamonds, red coral, lapis lazuli, rough zinc sulphide mineral (sphalerite) on the base;

Salvador Dalí, about the relationship between time and space

"I have been aware of the relation between time and space since childhood. However my invention of the "soft clock" - first in oil painting and then later, in 1950, in gold and precious stones — caused a division of opinion: approval and understanding, skepticism and incredulity.

Today, in American schools, my "soft clock" is shown as a prophetic expression of the fluidity of time — the indivisibility of time and space. The speed of travel in the present times (space travel) confirms that belief. Time is not rigid, it is fluid."

S. Dali "The Persistence of Memory", 1949, gold, diamonds, enamel, clock with Jaeger LeCoultre 426 mechanism

Salvador Dalí, about the frivolous nature of certain jewels
he designed himself

"Illusory! Dalinian jewels are totally serious. I’m glad that people smile at telephone earrings. A smile is something pleasant. But those earrings, like all my jewels, are serious. They represent the ear, a symbol of harmony and unity. They connote the speed of modern means of communication; the hope and the danger of an instantaneous change of thought."

Salvador Dalí, Carlos Alemany. Telephone Ear Clips, 1949, gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds

On the photo above 1. Madonna of the Aquamarine, 1953, gold, diamonds, Aquamarine. 2. The Bleeding World, 1953, gold, diamonds, rubies, pearls. 3. Ophelia, 1953, gold, citrine (quartz), garnet, pearls. 4. Peace Medal, 1954, gold, diamonds, lapis lazuli. 5. Slow Ring, 1949, gold, diamonds, sapphire. 6. The Corset Ring, 1949, gold, diamonds, pearls.
What do you think is the most valuable, in Dali’s opinion? "The jewel-encrusted pieces — ornaments, medals, crosses, objects of art — that are to be found in this book were not conceived in order to remain inert in armoured chambers. They were created in order to please the eye, raise the spirits, awaken the imagination and express convictions…"
Salvador Dalí, Carlos Alemany "The Pomegranate Heart", 1949, gold, diamonds, rubies
"..Without a public, without the presence of spectators, these jewels would not fulfil the function for which they were created. Thus the spectators become their final creator. The eye of the spectator, his hearts and his mind — that merge and capture with greater or lesser understanding the intention of the creator- lend them life."

Salvador Dalí

Dali was not only "The Persistence of Memory", but also persistence in matters of the heart, which is rare for bohemians. Gala was his muse, friend, wife, lover. For his beloved Dali made a luxurious brooch "Ruby Heart", decorated with 46 rubies, 42 diamonds and 4 emeralds. The mechanism inside the brooch makes "Dali's heart" beat until now.

Salvador Dali and Gala. Spain. Photo: Jerry Cooke / Corbis

Based on:,, and comments by Salvador Dali to the catalog of the collection of jewelry, 1959. The main illustration: Photo by Philippe Halsman "Salvador Dali with his work "The Eye of Time", 1947 .
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Svetlana Soldatova
, May 13, 2017 12:07 AM 0
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