Forensic scientists who exhumed the embalmed body of Spain’s surrealist artist Salvador Dali discovered that his famed mustache remained intact nearly three decades since his death.
The remains of the artist are being exhumed to take DNA samples in order to settle a paternity claim.
When Dali died in 1989, aged 84, his body was embalmed by Narcis Bardalet, who told Reuters that attempts to extract DNA were likely to be successful, though “there are also difficulties because (the body) has been embalmed and the formaldehyde could have damaged the nucleus of the cells.”
“Getting the samples, that is, molars, teeth, long bones, in order to extract DNA will be easy, because the body will be in a relatively good condition,” Bardalet said.
He said on Friday that he was “very happy to see the most famous Surrealist once again,” confirming that his “ten past ten” mustache, referring to the hands on a clock, remained intact.
Dali’s remains are interred in a crypt under the stage of the domed Theatre-Museum in Figueras, which houses some of his art works and paintings he collected.
Samples of his DNA were taken on Thursday and it may take weeks before the results tests are known.
Maria Pilar Abel, who was born in 1956 in the northern Spanish town of Figueras – Dali’s home town and the place he is buried – claims her mother had an affair with the painter and has been trying to prove she is his daughter for years.
In June, a Madrid judge finally ruled that a DNA test should be performed to find out whether her allegations were true.
Abel, who for a while made her living by reading tarot cards on local television, was born in Girona, a city close to Figueres. She said she pressed for the exhumation because legal proof of Dali’s paternity would honor the memory of her mother, Antonia.
Abel filed a paternity suit against in 2015. She claims that Dali had an affair with her mother when she was his neighbor when she was living in the Spanish town of Cadaqués. Antonia left the town for another in 1955 where she married another man.
Abel said that her mother frequently told her and a number of other people that the artists was her biological father, speaking of the great physical resemblance between them.
She told Spain’s El Pais newspaper that she was first told about her paternity by her grandmother, who told her: “I know that you are not my son’s daughter, but you are the daughter of a great artist. I love you just the same.”
The grandmother also noted that her grandchild was “odd” just like her father.
If proved right, Abel could claim one-fourth of the painter’s estate, according to her lawyer, Enrique Blanquez. There are no current estimates of the exact value of that — but it’s certainly a fortune.
If she is proved wrong, the Dali foundation will seek financial compensation for the costs of the exhumation.
Representatives of the Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation, which manages Dali’s estate on behalf of the Spanish state, said Friday the evidence backing Abel’s claims weren’t enough to justify the intrusive exhumation. They vowed to continue a legal battle to nullify the paternity test.
Dali, who once said “surrealism is me,” is considered one of the founding fathers of the artistic movement. His works in paint, sculpture and cinema, among other disciplines, are shown in museums all over the world and sought by private collectors.
Dali and his Russian wife Gala had no children of their own, although Gala had a daughter from an earlier marriage to French poet Paul Eluard.
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