Salvador Dali’s “Surrealist Piano”

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Parker Fine Art Auctions is selling a cast of Salvador Dali’s extraordinary Surrealist Piano at its online Fine Paintings Sale next week (26-November-2020).

full image of Dali's Surrealist Piano on studio background

The sculpture illustrates Dali’s penchant for transforming everyday articles into phantasmagorical animated objects. Here he has bought the instrument to life by incorporating exaggerated human characteristics.

The traditional piano legs are replaced by those of a dancing girl. The front legs are provocatively splayed and emerge from skirted frills that run beneath the keyboard. The rear leg is also capped by a frilled skirt, and all three are booted. These legs reflect Dali’s Paris of the 1920s with its music hall dance culture.

Perched on top of the piano is a golden ballet dancer reaching out and mirroring the shape of the piano’s lid. The high-culture of the ballet dancer’s pose contrasts with more earthy forms of the skirted piano legs.

Note that Dali has transposed the bass and treble of the instrument. The curved side is now in the bass end, and the straight side in the treble. This allows the ballet dancer to face to the right which is more aesthetically pleasing.

Dali and Pianos

Dali regularly featured musical instruments in his artworks. He included them in his paintings and installations. His Dream of Venus appeared at the 1939 World Fair in New York. It was the artist’s nightmarish manifestation of a surrealist house. One part of the exhibit featured a “piano woman” — a piano with a female body.

In Un Chien Andalou (1929), the bizarre film Dali made with Luis Buñuel, one famous scene features two priests and two grand pianos stuffed with dead donkeys dragged unceremoniously across a room.

Dali also transformed a Steinway Model A piano by painting a naked heraldic angel on the underside of the lid. Although untitled, this became known as the Piano of Mozart.

Salvador Dali was born in Figueres, Spain on 11 May 1904 and died in the same town in January 1989.

The Surrealist Piano is a limited edition casting of 350 (plus 35 artists proofs). Each is individually numbered and inscribed “Dalí”. The artist originally conceived the design in 1954, however, the artwork was cast in 1984 by the Swiss Perseo Foundry.

close up of the sculpture's plinth showing the signature, edition number, and foundry stamp
Close-up of signature, edition number (305/350), and foundry stamp on the rear side of plinth.

The sculpture is produced using the cire-perdue or lost-wax casting method and is made of bronze. The piano and base are finished with slate black patina. The Surrealist Piano stands 60 cm tall including the base.

These sculptures do regularly come up for auction. This edition of the piano has the number 305 and a guide price of between £5,000 and £7,000 ($6,500—$9,250). Full details can be found on the Parker Fine Art Auctions website.

In 2018, Christies Shanghai sold a special 2.5m “museum-sized” bronze Surrealist Piano for over €1million ($1.2million).

Photos courtesy Parker Fine Art Auctions.

  • [UPDATE 1-DEC-2020]: Parker Fine Art Auctions sold the above item on 26-Nov-2020 for £11,000—twice the estimated sale price.


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