1904-1989 | Spanish
Nine of Swords
Signed “Dalí” (lower center)
Gouache on photographic background
Representing a unique blend of spiritualism and Surrealism, this gouache hails from Salvador Dalí’s fascinating and highly inventive deck of custom-made tarot cards. The original commission for the design came from Albert Broccoli, the producer of the James Bond film Live and Let Die, who sought a tarot card deck to use in the film. Though the contractual deal eventually fell through, Dalí continued the project of his own accord, largely thanks to the inspiration of his wife Gala, who had an interest in mysticism.
The Surrealist maestro drew upon a number of influences to complete the deck, which comprised 78 cards in total — 22 major arcana and 56 minor. His own self-portrait served as the Magician card, while his beloved wife Gala naturally posed for the Empress. Jan Gossaert’s 1516 Renaissance work Neptune and Amphitrite was the basis for the Lovers card, while the Queen of Cups card represents a fascinating marriage of Duchamp’s iconic Mona Lisa remix, L.H.O.O.Q., with a portrait of Elizabeth of Austria. The iconography of the deck is as eclectic as one would expect from the Surrealist master; it is little wonder that it took him 10 years to complete the project.
The present gouache is among the original 56 minor arcana cards, this one depicting the Nine of Swords. The card traditionally depicts a woman on a bed who has suddenly awoken, representing feelings of worry or fear. In the upright position, it urges one to resolve these feelings in order to grow and heal. Reversed, the card suggests one has overcome a period of turmoil and has achieved a more positive frame of mind.
Dalí reimagines the visual elements of this card, using the image of a funerary monument by the great Italian Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini located in the Church of San Francesco a Ripa in Rome, Italy. It depicts the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni, a noblewoman who devoted her life to Christian charity. In the sculpture and in Dalí’s card, she takes her final breath in ecstasy, ready to meet her eternal reward. The woman depicted on the traditional card is a potent symbol of the space between sleep and wakefulness or life and death, making the choice of Bernini’s sculpture an apt one. Dalí's inclusion of a swallow and angel adds an element of hope and spiritual guidance to the card.
After Dalí completed his deck, the original cards were assembled and published in a limited art edition in 1984. While a number of editions have since been printed of the cards, the present Nine of Swords is the artist’s original gouache and collage creation.
Born in Catalonia in 1904, Dalí was formally educated in the fine arts in Madrid, particularly falling under the influence of the Impressionists and the Renaissance masters. He became associated with the Madrid avant-garde group Ultrae at a young age, though he eventually grew more acquainted with avant-garde movements such as Cubism, Dada and Futurism. By the late 1920s, his mature Surrealist style had already begun to emerge, and in 1929 he officially burst onto the avant-garde art scene with his Un Chien Andalou, a short film he made with Spanish director Luis Buñuel. Today, he is remembered as one of the most legendary and significant contributors to Surrealism. His Persistence of Memory, with its melting clocks, is arguably the most recognizable painting of the movement. Two museums — one in St. Petersburg, Florida and another in Catalonia — are entirely devoted to his oeuvre; other important works by the artist can be found in the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Art Institute of Chicago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), among many others.
The Archives Descharnes have confirmed the authenticity of this work under the reference number d4868. It is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.
Card: 11 7/8" high x 9 1/8" wide
Frame: 29 3/8" high x 25 7/8" wide
Gallery Gertrude Stein, New York, 1985
Private collection, Paris
M.S. Rau, New Orleans