Salvador Dalí, Spectre of Sex Appeal. 1934
Some of Dali’s biggest victories were achieved in tiny spaces. There’s no better example of this than his 7-in. x 5-1/2 in. “Spectre of Sex Appeal” of 1934, one of the great little gems in the Teatru-Museu Dali in Figureas, Spain.
Painting was the perfect pressure release valve for Dali’s sexual neuroses, angst and ambivalence. He put on canvas direct and indirect expressions of the often confusing sexual thoughts and self-doubts with which he was preoccupied.
In a bayside cove in Port Lligat, Spain, Dali paints himself here in the familiar childhood sailor suit he was often seen in. The bone and hoop he holds – toys that helped young Salvador pass the time – could easily suggest Freudian symbols of male and female sexual anatomy. The sheer size of the disquieting female figure (often referred to as simply a “torso”) towers over the young, impressionable, sexually vulnerable Dali like a monster.
This strange figure, with sacks for breasts and lower abdominal area, is uniformly described by Dali scholars as headless. But your Interpretations of Dali blogger isn’t entirely sure about that.
If you follow the lines where the front and back of the figure’s neck would extend back, you may discern what appears, convincingly to me, to be a face – complete with pronounced nose, left eye, and distinct hairline.
Intended? Or just the undisputed master of the double/hidden image, challenging us to see beyond the obvious?
I saw “The Spectre of Sex Appeal” in several Dali exhibitions over the years, and it absolutely lives up to its reputation as one of the most precisely painted, jewel-like works ever created by Salvador Dali, who was 30 when he completed this unforgettable canvas.
And once again, as I’ve pointed out in many previous blog posts, Dali achieves his plan of “Dalinian Continuity.” The same self-portrait in sailor suit can be found, also in the lower right corner, in the massive Hallucinogenic Toreador of 1970, which is in the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. (via Dali)