Madonna of Port Lligat (First Study) - Salvador Dali

"Madonna of Port Lligat" (1949, first version) - was conceived by Salvador Dali in the USA, but written already in Spain, in the studio of Dalí's house in Port Lligat, after the artist was able to return to his homeland after eight years of absence.


 This work can and should be regarded as "raising" Gala from the status of a pagan goddess (picture "Leda Atomica") to the level, neither more nor less - of the Virgin Mary herself! This is, in fact, Dali's first canvas on the theme of Catholicism, and thus his first painting, created in full accordance with the genre of "nuclear mysticism", in which Dali had the honor to work from now on. Let us recall that nuclear mysticism is a style invented by Dali himself, in which he combined "Spanish religious mysticism" with the achievements of modern science, primarily nuclear physics and molecular biology.

"Madonna of Port Lligat" is done in the spirit of a "levitating Renaissance", which once again proves how well Dali was familiar with the artistic heritage of past centuries - and how skillfully he combined it with the era of the atom. Of course, anyone who is in the slightest degree familiar with the personality and work of Salvdor Dali will have this logical question: where does this quasi-Catholicism come from in a person who, in his youth, was reputed to be a notorious blasphemer?

In Catholicism, the young and ardent Dali saw heavy fetters that ruined any sprout of fresh thought in Spain - and suddenly became a militant apologist for this religion... How? Why? The answer is simple, and, for all its pompousness, is correct. The roots of Dali's newborn addiction to Catholicism are in his enduring and all-consuming love for Catalonia. By "Catalonia", I do not mean a society united by separatist ideas, but a geographical point on our planet, which Dali was in love with endlessly and unrequitedly - from childhood to his last breath.

By "Catalonia", I mean, first of all, his small homeland - Figueres, the Ampordão Valley, Cadaques and Port Lligat, where he "could work like nowhere else", and where he created his best paintings. Dali's creative thought all his life fed exclusively on the juices of the stony soil of Port Lligat and Cape Creus, and when Dali was outside this nutrient medium, he suffered unbearably.

The growing longing for this small and beloved oasis at the end of the world led Dali to the inevitable thought that he needed to leave the golden American paradise and return to Spain. Recall that in Spain then the dictator Franco ruled, squeezing all the guiding threads in his little iron fist and instilling like-mindedness in his subjects with the help of the Catholic religion, once again elevated to the oficial state cult.

If Dali tried to say at least a word against Catholicism, which he once hated, Franco's people would quickly explain to him the "right policy" and forever discourage  Salvador from indulging in such stupid things. Dali, however, was too smart not to understand this.

And then what? Return - and just be quieter than water and below the grass, turning into a tacitly conformist mediocrity?  This, as we know, was also unacceptable for Dali from all points of view. So how can you make it so as to return to Francoist Spain and enjoy the highest degree of freedom and fame? How to arrange it?

Dali would not have been Dali if he had not found an ingenious way out. Brilliant and unique wau out: he decided to become the most Catholic Catholic of all Catholics in Spain, and, without fail, the most zealous Francoist of all the Francoists of the Caudillo regime.

Looking ahead, let's say - Dali did just that, and everything worked out for him. Over time, the new mask had grown so attached to his face that he no longer needed an effort to wear it - he did it easily and completely sincerely. As a basis for writing his Madonna, Dali took the famous "Altar of Montfeltro" - a painting by Pierro della Francesco.

And then everything is simple - if your name is Salvador Dali, of course. You transfer the action to the bay of Port Lligat - this view opens from the window of Dali's studio, anyone who has visited the Dalí House-Museum in Port Lligat would recognize it immediately. You give Madonna the features of Gala. You add, according to old habits, a pinch of surrealism - the through-holes in the figures of the Madonna and the baby first appeared in Dali's 1934 painting with the funny title "Weaning a Furniture Nutrition". Then you add levitation and disintegration of matter - innovations of the "atomic period".

You paint the drapery, as perfectly as always - the draperies performed by Dali are always worthy of the highest admiration. You add fish and reptiles of the sea, once again hinting that Madonna and her beautiful child (that is, Salvador Dali) live by the sea - and you get a wonderful and rarher small (48.9 x 37.5 cm, oil on canvas) Madonna of Port Lligat, now at Market University, Milwaukee.

Having created his personal Madonna, Dali did not stop there. In his new faith, he went so far that he achieved an audience with Pope Pius himself, during which he presented this painting to him personally. This incredible and significant event happened on November 23, 1949 - truly, Dali was magnificent!

To portray  his dissolute wife, who was famous for her exclusively free sexual behavior, in the image of Mothrer Mary - which can be considered either spiritual simplicity, or a sophisticated mockery -  and then drag "Madonna of Port Lligat" to a meeting with the Pope, the second after God  - only Dali could dare  for that.

The exact reaction of the Pope to Dali's painting is not known - although later the artist made it clear more than once that Pius really liked the painting!

The authors of the article are Sergei Zakharov and his wife, colleague and comrad-in-arms, Tatiana - writers and tour guides. You can learn more about our books and buy them in the "Where and what to read" section. We invite you to our tours of the Dali museums in Catalonia. Revealing secrets, debunking myths, telling the truth - we promise full and deep immersion in the amazing Universe of Salvador Dali! 

Write a comment

Comments: 0