This is the story of an unusual painting by Salvador Dalí, so unusual that the organizers of an exhibition dedicated to the Catalan painter who has just started in Chicago thought they had to prove that it was not a Dalí. It turns out that it is in fact the fragment of an unknown fresco from 1939.
"Visions of Eternity" is a painting owned by the Art Institute of Chicago. Identified as a Salvador Dalí painting, it has belonged to the museum since 1987, and it was only natural that curators Caitlin Haskell and Jennifer Cohen leaned on it when designing an exhibition dedicated to the Spanish painter in this museum – an exhibition which has opened on February 18 in this Chicago Art museum.
But in their preparatory work, the two curators doubted the authenticity of the painting. "We couldn't find anything similar in his work ," Jennifer Cohen told CNN. Its large size (more than two meters high) and its bare appearance, very unsymbolic, is the reverse of the artist's production at the end of the 1930s – the painting was identified as having been painted in 1936. sees three beans, an ark, a man carrying a bundle, and on the ark a damaged human figure.
X-ray analyzes have also failed to bring to light clues of an attribution to Salvador Dalí, even though the purpose of the exhibition, called "The Image Disappears", is to analyze the hidden images , optical illusions and polysemic symbols. Finally, the history of the painting also left the curators in doubt: arriving in the mid-1980s, it had previously been the property of one of the museum's curators… but before that, its provenance was unknown.
According to CNN , the painting does not present any recurring motif in Dalí: there are no giraffes, no soft pianos, no melting watches. “This painting seemed to have no visual companion ,” according to Jennifer Cohen. She and Caitlin Haskell reviewed all of Dalí's work in the 1930s and 1940s in search of a common sign that would link "Visions of Eternity" to the rest of Salvador Dalí's productions.
It was an illustration produced for Vogue that put the researchers on the track: we see, on one edge of the drawing, a little man with his back bent, carrying a backpack (small, on the right, in the illustration below). below). It's the same character as in "Visions of Eternity". The issue of Vogue magazine in question is dated 1939 and featured an installation by the artist for the New York World's Fair.
Dalí had in fact designed a pavilion for the event called " Le Rêve de Vénus ". A surreal place inhabited by a spectacle of half-naked women who presented a spectacle of mermaids, populated by fish skeletons and quotes from Botticelli's "Birth of Venus". And in the background, a huge fresco featuring the painter's famous motifs, such as the famous soft watches.
The photo for this "in situ" mural (the third photo in the tweet below) featured three beans similar to those featured on "Visions of Eternity". Upon further examination, it turned out that the entire motif of the painting can be seen in this photo: the curators therefore believed that the painting held by the Art Institute of Chicago was a reproduction of a fragment of this fresco. The" The curators told us: 'No: it's the painting. It's the original canvas,'" says Caitlin Haskell, according to whom the canvas was therefore cut out of the 1939 fresco. renamed "The Dream of Venus" instead of "Visions of Eternity", turns out to correspond to a set of four other fragments of the fresco, held by the collection of the Hiroshima Museum in Japan. Many other fragments are still missing today - and the story of this one may suggest that others may be discovered.
The newly named painting has therefore finally joined the exhibition as one of its centerpieces, as it is now documented (although scientific research into its origin will certainly take much longer). The exhibition includes other pieces relating to this installation, such as a "Declaration of the independence of the imagination and of the rights of man to his own madness" written by Dalí in response to the organizers of the 1939 Universal Expo. , who had asked him for alterations. Radio France & Pierre Nachbaur..