1904-1989 | Spanish
Seven 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 Seven of Swords. Traditionally depicting a man appearing to sneak away from a military base with swords in hand, the Seven of Swords card is often associated with deception and strategy. When drawn upright, the card can indicate myriad scenarios: that you may be trying to get away with something, that you are being manipulated by someone else or that you should be more careful and focused. Reversed, the card suggests self-doubt or inner deceit.
Dalí reimagines the traditional visual elements of this card, modeling it after a 16th-century School of Fontainebleau painting depicting Diana, the virginal huntress, which now hangs in the Louvre. A nebulous figure painted in red shadows Diana, representing the second ego or true inner self, alluding to the card's reverse meaning.
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 Seven 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 d4866. It is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.
Card: 11 3/4" high x 9 1/4" wide
Frame: 29 3/8" high x 25 3/4" wide
Private collection, New York.
Private collection, London, acquired from the above in 2009.
Private collection, Paris.
M.S. Rau, New Orleans.