A Salvador Dalí sculpture on temporary exhibit at the Liege-Guillemins train station, Liege, Brussels, 2016
by Jack Wright
She’s a tarot-card reader. She’s 61, born in 1956 to a maid who, by some accounts, worked in the Dalí household in the 1950s. She’s Maria Pilar Abel Martinez. She claims she’s the biological daughter of the world’s most celebrated surrealist painter, the Spanish Salvador Dalí. Dalí was widely known to have been impotent. Other reports/rumors go so far as to state that he had a phobia of female genitalia.
Ms Abel dismisses all these as fake news, a fabricated part of Dali’s public persona which, in the face of her paternity claim, couldn’t possibly be true behind closed doors.
In her interview on the popular Spanish TV program La Sexta Noche, broadcast live last Saturday, 22 July, she reiterated what she’s been saying incessantly elsewhere: she knew early on that she was the daughter of the prolific and versatile artist (he was also sculptor, filmmaker, writer and jeweler) from her late grandmother and in time from her own mother who, even now in her old age, is staunchly backing her in her legal battle.
She says that based on what she has gathered from who she presumes are reliable sources, the “clandestine love affair” between Dalí and her mother could not have been just a one-night stand despite his being married to Gala, his Russian muse whose real name was Elena Ivanova Diakonova.
Abel first filed the paternity lawsuit against the Salvador Dalí Foundation and the Spanish state in 2007. However, the results of the DNA tests made on the skin and hair found on Dalí’s death mask, and should have matched Abel’s own DNA, proved insufficient in establishing a biological connection – or the lack of it – between Dalí and his alleged secret love child. The case stagnated but Abel wouldn’t throw in the towel.
Then out of the blue, on 26 June 2017, the Court of First Instance #11 in Madrid ordered the exhumation of Dalí’s body for a definitive test. Dalí, who died in 1989 at age 84 (Gala passed on seven years earlier), is buried in the crypt under the geodesic dome roof of the Dalí Theater-Museum in Figueres, Dalí’s Catalan hometown – as well as Abel’s – some 90 miles away from Barcelona.
The Salvador Dalí Foundation, in charge of the Theater-Museum, opposed the surrealistic measure, saying that it was based on nothing but Abel’s allegations. But a court order was a court order. The remains were exhumed in the evening of 20 July 2017.
Despite the fact that Dalí’s body had been embalmed, the forensic experts succeeded in obtaining viable biological samples which have now been taken to a forensic laboratory in Madrid. (Incidentally, one of the exhumers said that Dalí’s iconic handlebar mustache was amazingly intact.)
Since Dalí was supposed to have died childless – and might remain so if the latest, and probably the final, DNA tests gave a lie to Abel’s testimony – he left his lavish estate to the Spanish state whose myriad components (artworks, buildings, copyright) are grouped under the Salvador Dalí Foundation.
Abel asserts that she filed the case mainly to learn about her true identity but also to vindicate her old mother; at the start financial gains weren’t therefore in her agenda. But, she says, she’s so annoyed at the way the Salvador Dalí Foundation has been treating her that as soon as the (favorable) results of the exhumation are in, foreseeably in September, she’ll go for her legal share of the estate. Under the law in Catalonia that would be a whopping 25% of the entire estate!
In the 1980s, Gala and Dali owned more than 2000 works of art whose estimated value was then some 20,000,000,000 Spanish pesetas. At today’s exchange rate that would amount to €120,202,436 or US$139,939,608. That was then. At the end of 2016 the Salvador Dalí Foundation was worth nearly €400 million ($465 million), according to the Foundation itself.
What Abel will never inherit is Dalí’s title, Marquis of Dalí de Pubol. The marquisate that King Juan Carlos conferred in 1982 was hereditary. But upon Dalí’s request it was reduced to a mere lifetime’s duration.
Typically eccentric and megalomaniac, Dalí once said that geniuses shouldn’t have children because no offspring of theirs would ever measure up to their great progenitors.
> Featured image/Smiley.toerist, CC BY-SA4.0 via Wikimedia Commons, cropped
> Tarot cards: three-card spread/Ariel Grim, CC BY-SA2.0 via Flickr
> Dalí’s photo/US Library of Congress’ Prints & Photographs, PD
> Dalí Museum-Theater entrance/Kuxu76, CC BY-SA2,0
> Crypt/Michael Lazarev, CC BY-SA2.0
> Dalí signature/freebiesupply.com, PD via Wikipedia
> The Great Masturbator, Fair use via Wikipedia
> South facade of the Museum-Theater/Kippelboy, CC BY-SA2.0
Jack has been with Guidepost for more than a decade now and sees no end to his association with The Dean. He travels around with his ubiquitous laptop, ready to pound it when a story hits him. He loves writing and doesn’t shy away from controversy; he could be mordant in his articles.
Jack has a bachelor’s degree with Political Science for major.
Texts, prints, photos and other illustrative materials depicted in GUIDEPOST have been either contributed by the authors of each published work or, to the Magazine’s good-faith knowledge, are in the public domain or otherwise benefit from the allowances of Articles 9(2), 10, 10(bis), and applicable others of the Berne Convention for the Protection of literary and artistic works.