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SALVADOR DALÍ, (1904-1989)
Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages signed, inscribed and dated 'Gala Salvador Dalí 1937' (lower right on the left panel); signed, inscribed and dated 'Gala Salvador Dalí 1937' (lower right on the right panel) oil on two panels within the artist's frames 94.5 x 74.5cm (37 3/16 x 29 5/16in) (left panel, including... moreCouple aux têtes pleines de nuages
Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages
signed, inscribed and dated 'Gala Salvador Dalí 1937' (lower right on the left panel); signed, inscribed and dated 'Gala Salvador Dalí 1937' (lower right on the right panel)
oil on two panels within the artist's frames
94.5 x 74.5cm (37 3/16 x 29 5/16in) (left panel, including the artist's frame)
87.7 x 65.8cm (34 1/2 x 25 7/8in) (right panel, including the artist's frame)
Painted in 1937
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(Possibly) Paul Éluard Collection, Paris.
Giacinto Scelsi Collection, Rome.
Fondazione Isabella Scelsi Collection, Rome (bequeathed by the above in 1987).
Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Dalí, The Centenary Retrospective, 12 September 2004 – 16 January 2005, no. 155 (later travelled to Philadelphia).
Rovereto, Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Cent'anni 1900 - 1950. Opere dalla collezione permanente del MART, 2008 - 2009.
Rovereto, Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Tra avanguardia e tradizione 1912 - 1945 e oltre. Opere dalla collezione permanente del MART, 2009 - 2010.
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Dalí Dalí featuring Francesco Vezzoli, 19 September 2009 - 17 January 2010, no. 18.
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Salvador Dalí, il sogno si avvicina, 22 September 2010 – 30 January 2011.
Vienna, Kunsthalle, Le Surréalisme, c'est moi! Hommage an Salvador Dalí, 22 June - 23 October 2011.
Rome, Complesso Monumentale del Vittoriano, Dalí, un artista un genio, 9 March - 1 July 2012, no. 25.
Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, What We Call Love, From Surrealism to Now, 12 September 2015 - 14 February 2016.
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Dalí/Duchamp, 7 October 2017 - 3 January 2018, no. 137.
Barcelona, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Gala Salvador Dalí, A Room of One's Own at Púbol, 7 July - 14 October 2018.
L. Martinis, 'A proposito di un dittico di Dalí', in I suoni, le onde. Rivista della Fondazione Isabella Scelsi, no. 9, Rome, April - June 2002 (illustrated on the front and back covers).
Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí (eds.), Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings by Salvador Dalí, online catalogue, 2004, no. P 508 (illustrated).
R. Descharnes & G. Néret, Salvador Dalí 1904 - 1989, The Paintings, Vol. I, 1904 – 1946, Cologne, 2007, no. 612 (illustrated p. 272; dated '1936').
M. Draguet, W. Jeffett & D. M. Johnson, Dalí & Magritte, exh. cat., Brussels, 2019 (illustrated p. 69).
'How can one forget that constant play between the interior and exterior worlds created by the large windows facing out on the ruins of the Imperial Forum; the palm in front of the French windows; the American vine on the facade, its fiery red colour in autumn ... The exterior creeping in, regularly interspersed with musical instruments, the creative disorder of the scores and books on the piano and on the tables, the drawers overflowing with recording tapes, the ancient objects, the portraits of the Yoga Masters and the Ascetics – a corner of mysterious Icons - the discreet tapestries, the worn rugs and, on the sofa in a visual axis with the palm, under two golden silhouettes, Giacinto Scelsi' - Luciano Martinis (translated from 'A proposito di un dittico di Dalí', in I suoni, le onde. Rivista della Fondazione Isabella Scelsi, no. 9, Rome, April - June 2002).
For the fortunate visitor to Giacinto Scelsi's home in the historic centre of Rome, the sight of Salvador Dalí's Surrealist masterpiece Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages would have been an unforgettable one. In the midst of the composer's many scattered instruments, notes, recording tapes and antiquities, hung these exceptional panels in hand-carved shaped gilt frames: a couple, leaning contemplatively towards each other, their torsos filled with the unmistakable dreamscapes of the Spanish painter's finest work.
The enigmatic and revolutionary composer Giacinto Scelsi Conte d'Ayala Valva (1905-1988) dedicated his life to writing innovative music, only achieving critical acclaim a few years prior to his death. Scelsi was born into a noble family in the South of Italy, and started playing the piano at the early age of three. After studying composition and harmony in Rome, Scelsi travelled abroad extensively and moved within Europe's avant-garde elite. Whilst living in Paris in the 1920s he encountered the Surrealists. Notable among these artists, writers and poets was Paul Éluard, the first husband of Gala Dalí and to whom, according to Scelsi, Dalí's stunning diptych Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages first belonged. He recounted to his biographer Luciano Martinis that the work had been gifted to Éluard by Dalí as a wedding present, and that he had in turn acquired the diptych from the French poet. Scelsi keenly followed the currents of Surrealism, and wrote Surrealist poetry in French – he often declared his love of Éluard's poetry to close friends and maintained links to the group, spending time with Salvador Dalí and Gala during their travels in Italy during the Spanish Civil War.
Scelsi was a true innovator, and developed an idea of a 'spherical' sound which he translated through microtonal elements in his music. Much like the Surrealists before him, Scelsi was fascinated by the concept of automatic and intuitive improvisation, which he used to create works such as La nascita del Verbo (1948), Quattro pezzi su una nota sole (1959) and String Quartet No. 4 (1963), recorded séance-like on a tape recorder. He collaborated with American composers such as John Cage, Morton Feldman and Earle Brown, and became a source of inspiration for Ennio Morricone's Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza. However, Scelsi remained largely unknown for most of his career and he stopped composing in the late 1970s. The Parisian group Itinéraire declared Giacinto Scelsi the father of the avant-garde in 1982, and a series of concerts in the late 1980s debuted many of his pieces to great acclaim shortly before the composer's death. The impact caused by the late discovery of Scelsi's works was described by Belgian musicologist Harry Halbreich: 'A whole chapter of recent musical history must be rewritten: the second half of this century is now unthinkable without Scelsi [...] He has inaugurated a completely new way of making music, hitherto unknown in the West' (Halbreich quoted in P. A. Castanet, Giacinto Scelsi aujourd'hui: actes des journées européennes d'études musicales consacrées à Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988), Paris, 2005, p. 191).
In 1987, Scelsi founded the Isabella Scelsi Foundation and presided over it until his death in 1988. He named the Foundation after his sister Isabella, to whom he had remained close throughout his life. The Foundation is dedicated to the study and dissemination of his work, and the support of new music.
Issuing from the height of his Surrealist period, Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages foregrounds some of the most iconographic elements of Salvador Dalí's best-known works. Painted at a time of huge personal and political change, the innovative format of the present work and the fascinating provenance place it as one of the most important works by this extraordinary artist ever to appear at auction.
The Catalan artist's involvement with the Surrealist movement and his passionate relationship with his future wife Gala both began in the same year, and from then on, his romantic life and his practice would forever be entwined. Dalí first met the Surrealist poet Paul Éluard (thought to be the first owner of the present work) in early 1929 whilst staying in Paris to film Un Chien Andalou with Luis Buñuel. Through Éluard, Dalí was introduced to the wider Surrealist circle and he invited members of the group to stay with him in Cadaqués that summer. Amongst the party who visited were Magritte and his wife Georgette, along with Éluard's wife, the Russian-born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, known as 'Gala'.
Dalí's relationship with the growing Surrealist group was subsequently cemented by his first solo exhibition in the November of that year, held at the Galerie Camille Goemans in Paris. Accompanied by a catalogue prefaced by André Breton ('it is, perhaps, with Dalí, the first time that the mental windows have opened wide' – Breton quoted in D. Ades, Dalí, London, 1982, p. 84), it was heralded as a great success. Aged just twenty-five, Dalí was now regarded as one of the leading lights of the Surrealist circle.
Breton, who had formed the heart of the Surrealist group since writing the First Manifesto of Surrealism in 1924, had originally been inspired by the writings of Sigmund Freud, who suggested that our unconscious mind contains unspoken desires and thoughts that our conscious self refuses to acknowledge. The Surrealist group sought to unlock these through automatism and the analysis of dreams, embracing and celebrating the accidental and the irrational. Dalí met Freud in person in 1938 to sketch his portrait, but sought to interpret his ideas in his own unique way, which he coined as the 'paranoiac-critical method'. The artist sought to play with the viewer's own paranoid and subjective mind to read alternative meanings into the images presented in a composition. This freely-associated imagery differed from the automatic method of other Surrealists, as in Dalí's work each motif or nuance was carefully staged and planned to provoke a desired reaction.
By the time Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages was painted however, Dalí's relationship with Breton was showing signs of tension, anticipating his eventual expulsion from the Surrealist group in 1939. By then, Breton had named Dalí 'Avida Dollars', a derogatory anagram of the Spanish...