A Salvador Dalí horse bronze has fetched £289,250 in an auction in Britain.
The sculpure by the eccentric Spanish artist, who died in 1989, went under the hammer at an impressionist and modern art auction held by Bonhams in London on Tuesday.
The work, which came from a private collection in Switzerland, was conceived by Dali in 1980 and was cast by the Perseo Foundry in a numbered edition of eight, plus four artist’s proofs.
The work, “Le Cheval à la Montre Molle”, illustrates Dalí’s preoccupation with time and forces the viewer to acknowledge his own mortality.
The bucking horse is saddled with Dalí’s infamous melting clock, a symbol which first appeared in his 1931 work, La persistance de la mémoire.
Now a universally recognised image, the artist’s inspiration for the soft watch originally came from studying a melting cheese.
Having finished a meal with a strong camembert one evening, Dalí remained behind at the dinner table with a headache whilst his wife Gala and their friends left for the cinema.
Dali – “meditating on the philosophic problems of the ‘supersoft’ which the cheese presented to my mind” – added soft watches to his rocky landscape, thus completing the well-known composition.
The juxtaposition of soft and hard is continued in the horse work, where the unnaturally soft form of the melting clock-face drapes over the strong body of the horse, whose vibrancy is enhanced by the faceted modelling of his muscles. While the horse is full of movement, attempting to rear up and dislodge this unwelcome burden, time sits heavily and inertly upon him.
The weight of time was also a burden Dalí attempted to dislodge, as the artist constantly researched theories about life after death.
He published “Dix recettes pour l’immortalité” in 1973, initially declaring that he wished his body to be frozen after death before attempting to dehydrate himself in order to attain immortality.
His very experimentation with sculpture can be linked to this preoccupation, as he explored the potential of three dimensional objects and holograms in order ‘to move on into the fourth dimension’ and thus into immortality.
Part of the Gotham Collection, this sculpture was one of several to be turned into editions, created from original paintings and models and whose themes were derived from familiar Dalían symbols.
The casting of the bronzes was supervised by Beniamino Levi, president of the Stratton Foundation. Robert Descharnes recalls witnessing the creation of the original model for the Cheval sellé avec le temps: “A little before 1980, Beniamino Levi asked Dalí for a sculpture of a horse. He immediately started to mould the animal by working on a wooden model with joints that he patiently wound up in a web of white wax.
“Seated next to him in the salon of the Hotel Meurice, I was charged with preparing the white wax while observing through the corner of my eye the birth of what should have been a firey stallion. Yet it was still a bandage.
“And then, little by little, kneaded by the thumbs of the artist, the small layers of wax gave birth to the horse.
“To finish the sculpture, Dalí moulded a soft watch like a saddle. At the end of the day, after five hours of work, the model was ready to go to the foundry.”