The Cave of Dalí Baba
Discovering new perspectives leads to worlds of wonders and each landscape is a new playground. On our recent Southern Mediterranean cruise, we made it a point to stay for 10 extra days in Barcelona at the cruise’s end, to explore and soak in the arts; after all, Barcelona is a global wonder, what with the Sagrada de Familia alone, which attracts a steady inflow of tourists. Destinations may bring us around the world but it is the individuals with their art who connect us to them. One such true surrealist is Salvador Dalí who was the perfect combination of flamboyance, creativity, and intellect. My husband Rupert and I felt that taking the trip to his museum would afford us an insight into Dalí’s mind, more so, the Dalí universe.
The Teatro Museo Dalí in Figueras, “Cave of Dalí Baba,” opened in September 1974 and was subsequently bombed in the Spanish Civil War. Fulfilling a lifelong wish, today it is a Dalínian building. Being a classic source of inspiration, it was a dream to enter his world of haute joaillerie—a world of unimaginable splendour. We marvelled at the art of his carefully edited jewellery. We gasped and we grasped that what we see has the power to express the character of its owner more faithfully than words. Dalí said “In jewels, as in all my art, I create what I love. In some you will note an architectonic sense—as you will in certain of my paintings; again logarithmic law is evident; again the interrelation of spirit and matter; of time and space.”
In 1922 Salvador Dalí enrolled at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando and begun experimenting with cubism methods. Four years later, he was expelled for his snobbish attitude towards his teachers. Desperately seeking his own style, Dalí moved to Paris where he met Pablo Picasso. At a party Dalí hosted, he invited Paul Elouard, one of the leading lights of the surrealist movement and his wife, Helena Devulina Diakanoff, whom everyone called Gala. She was the revelation Dalí had been waiting for: the personification of the women in most of his paintings and drawings. So smitten with her beauty, Dalí immediately proposed to her, to which she agreed, leaving her then husband behind. When Dalí threw himself to the ground at Gala’s feet, Gala said “My little boy! We shall never leave each other.” She was his “Gradiva” (the heroine of Wilhelm Jensen’s novel who psychologically healed the male protagonist), his victory, and his wife. The Russian born Parisian adoptee became his muse and the subject of much of his infamous work.
Dalí’s career took off with Gala. The art that Dalí created with her as inspiration was a stroke of genius.When Dalí asked her, “What do you want sweetheart? What do you need sweetheart?” Gala replied: “A beating heart made of ruby.” Henceforth, Dalí began to invent jewellery. After he drew them on paper, the precious gems and metals jeweller, Carlos Alemany, interpreted them in gold.
As we entered the museum, I was momentarily transfixed with the lateral cascades of opulent pieces and theartistic genius that was apparent in his design and craftsmanship. Dalí had channelled his excitingly eclectic taste through his amazing jewellery in the specially created exhibition hall at the Galata tower of the Dalí Theatre and Museum.
The collection started in 1941 first belonged to the American millionaire Cummins Catherwood. There followed a series of different collectors: Fund of Owen Cheatham; the 39 sketches and 37 creations of jewellery at the Virginia museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, USA; an interim expo in Dalí’s native Spain. The unique collection continued changing hands with various owners, from a Saudi multi-millionaire to three Japanese firms until finally in 1999, the Fund Gala-Salvador Dalí redeemed the collection for 5.5 million euro.
After seeing his paintings and works of art, we feasted our eyes on Dalí’s 39 surrealistic pieces of jewellery (two of them were created after his death). Gold, pearl, platinum, and other precious gems were turned into flowers, eyes, animals, hearts, lips, and mythological or religious symbols. Every set of jewellery such as the Madonna of the Aquamarine, Tristan and Isolde, Eye of Time brooch, Living Flower contain the unmistakable signature of the maestro. I was in awe to visit a place of such spectacle, experiencing a “pinch me” moment that truly blew my mind away!
- Photography Rupert Jacinto