The Enigma of William Tell (1933) | Salvador Dali
This painting by Salvador Dali is the last in a series of canvases based on the Swiss folklore of William Tell, a legendary figure known for his skills with a cross-bow who – in order to rescue himself and his son – is set the challenge of shooting an apple of his son’s head. Dali reinterprets this paternal sentiment as cannibalism by, allegedly, placing himself as the infant in Tell’s arms and using the lamb cutlet to suggest a juxtaposition between father and destroyer. The most explicitly shocking component of the image is clearly the enlarged and phallic buttock that, in being propped up, suggests impotence. Dali received wide criticism for depicting the face of Tell in this image as Russian despot Vladimir Lenin and was eventually rejected from the surrealist school. The painting itself was nearly destroyed by founder Andre Breton.