Le Sommeil (Sleep) - Salvador Dali

Le Sommeil (Sleep) - Salvador Dali

Le Sommeil (Sleep) was painted by Salvador Dali in 1937 and can rightfully be considered one of the artist's most famous surrealist works. It is interesting that the central (and almost the only) character of the picture, representing a huge head devoid of a body, on the thinnest supports of crutches, is not at all a self-portrait, as, for example, a similar head in the paintings "The Great Masturbator" or "The Persistence of Memory".

Yes, each image is based on the cliffs of Cape Creus, depicted countless times by Salvador Dali. But if the prototype of the self-portrait was a rock called "La Roca Cavallera", then in the case of this work the prototype was a boulder called "The Sleeping Head".

Dali, I must say, depicted this boulder practically unchanged, except that he placed it vertically and deprived it of materiality. This swollen huge Head, in fact, is the visual embodiment of Sleep - that is, something that does not exist in reality, and that is only the fruit of the work of the subconscious - in our case, the intricate subconscious of Dali.

This "immateriality" of sleep is emphasized by the disproportionality of thin crutches with a swollen, swollen head. If everything happened in reality, the crutches would have broken long ago, and the head, like an overripe pumpkin, would have smashed against the firmament of the earth. However, we are in the state of sleep - and the unnatural, clearly artificial light that floods the landscape testifies to the same.

In fact, everything that is depicted in the painting exists only while the sleep lasts - even a dog (not a real one, but a dreaming one) needs crutches to maintain an upright position. The fragility of these support crutches is an indication that the line separating sleep from reality is very thin. Any, even the smallest, accident is enough for the state of to stop, and its images, which seemed so tangible, dissipated like smoke and instantly ceased to exist.

The image of the monumental Sleep supported by thin crutches - the forerunner of Dali's famous spider-legged elephants, who first appear in "Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening" - and will have the same meaning: the fragility and instability of sleep.

Here is what Salvador Dali himself said about the painting "Dream": "Thanks to the glorious paranoid-critical method, we get new, more precise details. Sleep is truly a monstrous pupa (pupated monster), its morphology and nostalgia are supported by eleven crutches ..."


In his "The Secret Life of Salvador Dali" the artist wrote that he often imagined the Sleep as a huge massive head on a long slender body, balancing on the crutches of reality. (Read the original text in Russian)

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! 

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