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Dali, Salvador
Spanish, 1904-1989
Salvador Dalí
Remorse, or Sphinx Embedded in the Sand
Oil on canvas
7 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches (19 x 26.7 cm)

This painting contains a phantasmal blonde-haired girl embedded in sand to the waist, her hand held to her head. What at first appears to be drapery over her back is actually skin with a woman's slipper and a glass of milk underneath it. She is in a vast dreamscape which contains an elongated black shadow, a small glowing rock and a tiny jewel-like palisade in the background. All are bathed in an hallucinatory light, whose source is outside the painting. While the landscape and the lighting appear to be unreal, they are a part of the Spanish landscape where Dali grew up. As a child Dali was fascinated, frightened and profoundly influenced by his native landscape.

Dalí’s most innovative and critically acclaimed period was the 1930s when he painted The Museum of Modern’s Art’s "The Persistence of Memory" and our "Remorse". Dalí’s subtitle points to a Freudian interpretation of the painting. For Freud, the Theban Sphinx was really asking about sex. His notion that a barren landscape occupied only by some rocks was a symbol for female sexuality is appropriate here, particularly in light of the egg shape of the rock next to the remorseful sphinx/woman. According to Dalí’s autobiography, where this painting was first published, the glass of milk and the shoe, which appear to lie just under the figure’s slip-like dress, were Dalí’s two most active fetishes. It is signed Olive Salvador Dali in affection for his new love Gala (whom he nicknamed Olive). He believed that Gala had saved his precarious sanity by curing him of his fear of sex and death. The painting’s meticulous detail, smooth surface and hallucinatory quality are characteristic of Dalí’s hand-painted dream imagery. In the 1930s, his illusionistic approach began to dominate the Surrealist movement, which had previously been more abstract, involving automatic drawing and processing techniques.

Gift of John F. Wolfram