Unearthing Dalí

The surreal court-ordered exhumation of artist Salvador Dalí in July would have astounded even the master himself

By Robin Jay

In the eerie evening hours of Thursday, July 20th in Figueres, Spain, the surreality of the event that transpired beneath the glassed dome of the the Dalí Theatre-Museum would have surely shocked even artist Salvador Dalí in a way that no melting clock or eye-shaped pendant ever could.

María Pilar Abel Martínez with her mother, who worked as a maid under the employment of friends of Dalí in Spain.

Salvador Dalí

You see it was here, in the final resting place of Dalí, where a court-ordered entourage of judicial secretaries, Forensic Medical Institute representatives, members of the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí and attorneys advocating for the Spanish State, the Foundation and the taro-card reader María Pilar Abel Martínez, observed as pulleys lifted the master’s tombstone and then his coffin lying two meters beneath. The exhumation was an effort to prove (or disprove) Martínez’ claims that she is the love child of the otherwise childless Dalí and a legal heir to some portion of his behemoth estate.

Director of the Gala Salvador Dalí Foundation Juan Manuel Sevillano (R), Figueres Mayoress Marta Felip (2-R) and Director of the Dalí museums Montse Aguer (3-R) watch a judicial cortege work to exhumate the remains of famed Spanish artist Salvador Dalí.

Why A Madrid Court Ordered The Exhumation
Much to the chagrin of the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Martínez filed a lawsuit in 2015, saying that her mother once worked as a maid for friends of Dalí in the 1950s and had a secret affair with the married artist. Past efforts to compare Martínez’ DNA with hairs from Dalí’s death mask proved non-conclusive, which provoked her to press for the artist’s exhumation and further paternity testing.

“The DNA study of the painter’s corpse is necessary due to the lack of other biological or personal remains with which to perform the comparative study,” the Madrid court said.

The Response
The Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí couldn’t have disagreed more. After completing the exhumation, the Foundation declared in a statement that “It considers the exhumation performed on Salvador Dalí’s remains entirely inappropriate, for the reasons presented in its judicial review: There is no evidence that claimant Pilar Abel Martínez’ claim has any legal basis, as the only grounds provided constitute a notarial statement from a woman who claims to be a friend of the mother [Martínez’ mother is still alive at the time of this writing, but is in a reported state of dementia].

“Before agreeing to such an invasive act as the exhumation of Salvador Dalí in a museum, the claimant Pilar Abel Martínez – as proposed by the Foundation and the Spanish State – should have been required to carry out a DNA test to compare her DNA with that of her legal father (deceased) or her brother, to thereby obtain all available evidence that she is not their daughter or sister.”

Site of Dalí’s tomb in the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figuero, Catalonia. www.salvador-dali.org

The Findings Within
Narcís Bardalet, the coroner who performed Dalí’s embalming after his death in 1989, was also present at the artist’s unearthing and removed the silk scarf covering the artist’s face.

In a post-exhumation interview with a radio station local to the Dalí Theatre-Museum, Bardalet exclaimed,  “His moustache is still intact, 10 past 10 [referring to clock hands], just as he liked it. It’s a miracle… I was quite moved. The moustache is still there and will be for centuries.”

• Salvador Dalí House in Portlligat, Spain

•  Gala Dalí Castle Púbol,  Púbol-la Pera, Spain

•  Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida


Sept. 6, 2017, Madrid *
— A paternity test has disproved a Spanish woman’s claim that she is the daughter of surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, the deceased painter’s foundation announced Wednesday.
The Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation said in a written statement that the Madrid court that ordered the DNA test informed it that Pilar Abel, a 61-year-old tarot card reader, has no biological relationship with Dalí.
*Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/salvador-dali-dna-test-disproves-paternity-suit-pilar-abel-madrid

Unearthing Dalí