NEW YORK – On Saturday, June 17, starting at 8 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will conduct a sale titled Exclusive Salvador Dali Lithographs & Prints. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
The overwhelming majority of the Dali images in the sale are woodcuts from his epic mid-century endeavor to illustrate Dante’s Divine Comedy. Dali (Spanish, 1904-1989) was commissioned by the Italian National Library to pursue the project, and in 1954 in Rome, he unveiled 100 illustrations on the theme, one for each canto in the three-volume Dante classic. Unfortunately, the artist sparked a controversy – not because of the content of the illustrations, but because of his nationality. Realizing that the 700th anniversary of Dante’s birth would come up in 1965, members of the Italian Parliament decried the fact that a native Italian artist had not been chosen to commemorate the great poet.
Having lost his initial support, Dali was nonetheless unwilling to abandon the work. He found two publishers in France, Editions les Heures Claires and Editions Joseph Horet, who were willing to join forces to handle his vision of the Divine Comedy. Two artists were employed to translate Dali’s watercolors into printing plates, a process that called for them to hand-carve 3,500 wood blocks during the course of five years. The Divine Comedy Print Suite finally appeared in 1964.
The 89 lots in the June 17 sale reflect images from all three volumes of the Dante poem – Hell, Purgatory and Paradise – but the three sale highlights all come from the one devoted to Purgatory, the realm between heaven and hell.
In this trio of works, colors exist, but they are muted, a trend particularly evident in the framed woodcut titled Virgil’s reproaches, Purgatory 5, which is estimated at $450-$550, and Dante confession, Purgatory 31, which carries an identical estimate.
The most markedly Dali-esque of these highlighted images is Purgatory 17, Leaving the terrace of anger. The long-legged figure of Arachne, whom the goddess Minerva turned into a spider in a fit of pique after she bested her in a weaving contest, splays her many legs across the picture plane as Virgil and Dante attempt to slip away. The work is estimated at $300-$350.
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