Salvador Dalí's Body Exhumed to Reveal a Surreal Discovery

Photo of Rachel Gould
Art & Design Editor24 July 2017

Last month, a Spanish psychic won a two year-long court battle to have Salvador Dalí’s body exhumed for a paternity test, which she hopes will finally prove her claim to be his daughter. On the night of July 20, 2017, the artist’s mummified remains were examined by forensic experts, who found that his trademark mustache is still perfectly intact.

In March 2015, tarot card reader Pilar Abel sued the Spanish state (to which the artist left his estate) and the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation in a paternity lawsuit on the basis that Spanish artist Salvador Dalí was her father. To the Dalí Foundation’s dismay, a judge in Madrid ruled to have the artist’s remains exhumed for a paternity test, which was conducted last week.

Salvador Dali with Babou, the ocelot, and cane | Photo by Roger Higgins, World Telegram staff photographer/WikiCommons

On Thursday night, Dalí’s body was exhumed from a crypt beneath the Dalí Theatre-Museum, an institution designed by the famed surrealist himself in the town of Figueres, where he was born. The affair made headlines around the world, not only for the possibility that the artist has a long-lost child, but also due to an unexpected discovery during the morbid procedure.

After “removing a 1.5-ton stone slab with pulleys, building a marquee over the crypt to ensure privacy, and requiring every person involved to put their cell phones in a deposit to guarantee no photos were taken,” Vanity Fair reported, a team of forensic professionals uncovered Dalí’s body to collect hair, nail, and bone samples for the court-ordered paternity test when they found his mustache completely preserved in its signature position (above).

Dalí’s body was embalmed in 1989 by Narcís Bardalet, who was present for Thursday’s exhumation. Bardalet told Catalan radio station RAC1 that the discovery was a “miracle,” The Guardian reported, and that he was “delighted to see his mustache was intact.”

While The Guardian notes that Dalí biographer Ian Gibson has “gone on record with his doubts over the claim, citing the artist’s tortured relationship with sex,” (the artist had supposedly developed something of a phobia of the female form), Gibson does admit that the unusual artist would most likely have “appreciated” the macabre process of his own exhumation. “I think that Dalí would greatly enjoy being exhumed, it’s a totally surrealist event,” Gibson said to the BBC. “He’d be thrilled, I’m quite sure, by the whole business.”

The hair, nails, and bones taken from Dalí’s impeccably-preserved corpse have been sent to a forensic lab in Madrid, with the results due to be released in a matter of weeks. If it turns out that Abel’s claim is legitimate, she would be entitled to adopt the artist’s legendary surname, and inherit an estimated 300,000,000 euros of his estate.

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