Like that of the Renaissance artists he so admired, Dalí's art encompasses many forms. Salvador Dalí used every conceivable means to express his talent…painting, sculpting, engraving, architecture, photography, theater, cinema, literature – and jewelry.
About the Artist
Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí was born in Catalonia, Spain in 1904. Dalí's father was a middle-class lawyer, an atheist, and a strict disciplinarian. It was his mother who encouraged Salvador's artistic leanings.
In 1922, Dalí moved to Madrid, where he studied art and experimented with Cubism. His first solo exhibition took place in 1925 in Barcelona. A year later, he met Pablo Picasso, whom Dalí revered. As his unique style emerged, Dalí's work nonetheless reflected a strong influence by Picasso and the surrealist Joan Miró, who introduced him to his artist friends.
Dali's works drew a combination of praise and puzzlement. His works used classical and modernists methods alone and together. His flamboyant, idiosyncratic personality, complete with a distinctive mustache, made Dalí as talked about as the art he created.
Dalí's Dream of Venus surrealist pavilion made its debut at the 1939 New York World's Fair. By this time, Dalí's reputation as a pioneer in the surrealist movement was established, although his relations with other members of the movement were icy at best. Miró, once a close friend of Dalí, was disappointed that his compatriot refused to be drawn into politics. Although he didn't support Hitler, Dalí would not denounce fascism or support any political group, believing surrealism should exist outside of politics.
Salvador Dalí continued creating art for a variety of forms until his death at the age of 84 on January 23, 1989.
"My art encompasses physics, mathematics, architecture, nuclear science – the psycho-nuclear, the mystico-nuclear – and jewelry – not paint alone." -- Salvador Dalí.
In 1940, Dalí and his wife moved to the United States, where they resided for eight years. One year later, he turned his eye to designing jewelry. Over the next twenty-nine years, Dalí would create thirty-nine jewelry masterpieces. The collection gave shape to hearts, lips, eyes, plants, and animals, religious and mythological symbols, and anthropomorphic shapes.
Involved in every step of the process, Dalí entrusted Carlos Alemany with the task of giving life to his visions. Alemany was an Argentinian silversmith and goldsmith based in New York at the St. Regis Hotel. Dalí would first draft the design on paper, including precise details and shapes, materials, and colors. It was Alemany's talent that helped create the one-of-a-kind jewels from Dalí's drawings. While choosing gemstones based not only on their color but also on their symbolism, Dalí and Alemany agreed that the design and craftsmanship of the pieces were the top priorities.
Each piece was unique, featuring a combination of materials including gold, platinum, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, aquamarines, topazes, pearls, and coral.
Notable Pieces from the Collection
Anthropomorphic themes appear and reappear in my jewels. I see the human form in trees, leaves, animals; I see animal and vegetal characteristics in humans. My art — in painting, diamonds, rubies, pearls, emeralds, gold, chrysolite — demonstrate how metamorphosis comes about; human beings create and change. When they sleep, they change totally — into flowers, plants, trees. The new metamorphosis takes place in Heaven. The body becomes once again whole and reaches perfection.– Salvador Dalí
The Eye of Time (L'ull del Temps), 1949
Perhaps the most iconic of the pieces in Dalí's jewelry collection, this quirky combination brooch/watch, was one of 22 pieces commissioned for Cummins Catherwood and his wife, Ellengowen. Later, after the couple donated their collection to the Owen Cheatham Foundation, Mrs. Catherwood missed the Eye of Time so much, she commissioned Dalí to create a duplicate piece.
Dalí's Eye of Time was crafted in platinum and featured an eye outlined in round and baguette diamonds. A ruby appears in the left corner of the eye, with a teardrop of round diamonds cascading below. Blue and purple enamel form the iris, where the watch face appears, displaying Arabic numerals and Dalí's signature. A tiny Movado movement powered the watch.
The Royal Heart (El cor Reial), 1953
The captivating centerpiece of Dalí's jewelry collection, The Royal Heart, was set in 18K yellow gold and featured a heart covered in natural rubies. The crown at the top of the heart was accented with more rubies, accompanied by sapphires, emeralds, aquamarines, peridots, garnets, amethysts, diamonds and cultured pearls. Thanks to a unique mechanism, the heart actually "beat."
Ruby Lips, 1949
This whimsical piece was fashioned into a pair of lips crafted of 18K yellow gold. Round and oval natural rubies formed the lips, while pearls of mixed sizes filled the mouth.
Persistence of Sound, 1950s
These playful earrings are shaped like a pair of telephone handsets and showcase rubies, emeralds, as well as diamonds set in 18K yellow gold.
Leaf Veined Hands
A theme repeatedly featured throughout the collection, veined hands of 18K yellow gold, were tipped in fingernails of oval and pear-shaped cabochon-cut rubies, with a single emerald at the base.
Cummins and Ellengowen Catherwood donated the Dalí jewel collection to the Owen Cheatham Foundation in 1958. The Foundation, created in 1934, would lend the collection out to charitable organizations to display, so they were able to raise funds.
After being sold to a Saudi multi-millionaire and then three Japanese buyers, the collection found its final home at the Dalí Foundation in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain.
In addition to the jewelry collection he designed himself, Salvador Dalí also collaborated with Swiss watchmaker Piaget. And in 1941, Dalí and Falco D. Verdura together created five jewelry pieces with a surreal spin. The collection debuted at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York.
Illusory! Dalinian jewels are totally serious. I'm glad that people smile at telephone earrings. A smile is something pleasant. But those earrings, like all my jewels, are serious. They represent the ear, symbol of harmony and unity. They connote the speed of modern means of communication; the hope and the danger of an instantaneous change of thought. – Salvador Dalí