It has been a banner month for the resurfacing of obscure Salvador Dalí paintings. Earlier in February, it was reported that two of the artist’s works, purchased by an Argentine noblewoman in the 1930s, would be leaving a family collection and heading to auction for the first time. And now, as Gabriella Angeleti of the Art Newspaper reports, another privately held Dalí painting is going on display in New York.
The 1932 work, which was previously unknown to researchers, had been stored in two private collections for the past 75 years. Recently, James Carona and Heather Sacre, founders of the Heather James Fine Art network of galleries, were alerted to the painting’s existence by a friend who saw it at the home of a collector in Greece, a Heather James media representative told Smithsonian.com. The work is currently on view (and available for purchase, at an unspecified price) at the Heather James space in New York.
The painting has been authenticated by Dalí scholar Nicolas Descharnes, who in 2014 helped confirm the provenance one of Dalí’s first surrealist paintings, "The Intrauterine Birth of Salvador Dalí." A number of clues pointed to Dalí as the artist behind the work. Like many other Dalí paintings, it is signed “Gala Salvador Dalí,” which was the artist’s way of paying tribute to his wife Gala, according to Sarah Cascone of Artnet News.
The work also features a pole protruding from the interior of a darkened window—a motif that appears in other works that Dalí created around this time period, including 1935’s "Morphological Echo." Descharnes thinks that the motif was inspired by the masts of fishing boats in the seaside village of Port Lligat, Spain, where Dalí and his wife lived between 1932 and 1982.
“This is the first known painting in which Dalí reveals to the public the combination of two new recurring obsessions that appear in his work in 1932: a suspended mast, and a window on a wall shown from an outside perspective displaying the darkness of an interior," Descharnes said in a Heather James Fine Art Gallery statement.
To ensure that the painting was not a forgery, Descharnes also spent nine months searching through archives and conducting tests, including infrared photography and signature and pigment analysis. “There are always two levels to authentication,” Descharnes tells Angeleti of the Art Newspaper. “One is the technical level, with which I'll have the help of other experts, and the other is just pure knowledge.”
Because the painting is untitled, it has been difficult for Descharnes to trace its exhibition history. But he believes it may have been shown in one of two exhibitions at the Galerie Pierre Colle of Paris in 1932, which list several untitled Dalí works. The Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation in Spain has not yet included the painting in its catalogue raisonné, but it has been registered in the Dalí archive that is managed by Descharnes.
If Descharnes is correct in his assessment of the painting, the discovery marks a significant moment for private art collectors. As the gallery statement explains, most of Dalí's major works from the 1930s, "the crucial decade when he created his most famous imagery," are held in museum collections. Only a few have appeared on the market over the past ten years.