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The Surreal Life: Salvador Dali to Be Exhumed in Paternity Suit

Photo: Salvador Dali, Paris. Photo by Carl Van Vechten, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Yesterday, a Madrid court ordered the body of famed surrealist Salvador Dali (1904-1989) to be exhumed to get samples for a paternity suit filed by 61-year-old tarot card reader Maria Pilar Abel Martínez.

Also: “Surreal” is Named Word of the Year

Martínez, born in Girona, Spain, in 1956, said that her mother, Antonia, had a secret affair with Dali in 1955 while working as a maid for a neighboring family in Cadaqués.

Salvador Dali with Babou, the ocelot and cane, 1965. Roger Higgins, World Telegram staff photographer. Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

At that time, Dali was married to his muse Gala, born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova. They remained married until she died in 1982. The couple had no children, making Martinez the first to claim heredity to the legendary artist. Under Spanish law, she would be entitled her to up to 25 percent of Dali’s work and property—which he left in care of the Spanish state.

After the alleged affair ended, Antonia left her job, moved to another city, and married a different man. Martinez claims that her mother told her that Dali was her father on several occasions. “The only thing I’m missing is a moustache,” Martinez said, according to newspaper El Mundo.

El Mundo also reported that in 2007 and 2008, Martínez already took DNA tests using retained specimens from Dalí’s body, but claimed she was never given the results.

A date for the exhumation has not been confirmed, but it could happen as early as July. In a statement, the Dali Foundation announced they will file an appeal in the coming days.

Salvador Dalí, 1939. Carl Van Vechten photograph collection. Library of Congress LOT 12735, no. 275, LC-USZ62-116608. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Aperture Online, and Feature Shoot. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.