In a surreal twist of legal loopholes, a Spanish court has recently ordered that Salvador Dali’s body needs to be exhumed in order to settle a paternity case. A little weird to dig up a dead guy, but sounds like a straightforward case, right? Well, with some clues from art history, you’ll find it gets a way weirder the deeper you go.
María Pilar Abel Martínez brings her case to court at the age of 61. She’s a tarot card reader (yep!) from Girona, a town in the Catalonian region of Spain. Dali spent many years living there with his his wife-for-life and muse, Gala.
His estate is worth many millions of dollars. If she is actually his blood-and-DNA daughter, she’s entitled to up to 25% of it. She says she doesn’t want the money. She says she wants to know who she really is.
In Abel’s family, the story goes that Dali and her mother had a hot and heavy fling in the mid-1950s, while her mother was a maid in house next to his. People say that’s not like because he went on the record that he was always faithful to his one love, Gala. I know what you’re thinking. Of course he would say that. Typical unfaithful artist type. But really, he must’ve slept with the maid. Case closed. Judge Judy can slam her gavel down.
It’s not that simple. A quick look into Dali’s sex life (and his paintings) provides clues for this case. The thing is, Dali probably didn’t have an affair because he didn’t even like sex. His love for Gala existed high above our idea of lust for flesh– he tried sleeping with her once, and said it was overrated.
Ever since Dali was a child, he was brimming with anxiety about intercourse. Growing up, his father would leave around the house very explicit images from medical textbooks showing advanced venereal disease. You know, like in health class, when they try to freak you out to keep you abstinent. This apparently had the effect of scaring him off of the stuff for good. In his adulthood, people close to him claim he was an avid masturbator and voyeur (as in, he liked to watch, not participate).
He even has a couple paintings to support these stories. One was called The Great Masturbator, because, well, you already know. And another one of his very early works was entitled The Voyeur, similarly a somewhat abstracted portrait of his favorite pass time. The last, damning piece of evidence in support of Dali’s case is a painting entitled The Spectre of Sex-Appeal, a work that makes sex look like literally the most horrifying and terrible thing ever.
So they’re still going to dig up this guy’s corpse to test his DNA, but for what it’s worth, he’s probably not the daddy.