Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
The James and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection
Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)

Le cavalier à la tour

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
Le cavalier à la tour
signed 'Dalí' (lower right)
oil on panel
7 1/8 x 5 ½ in. (18.2 x 13.9 cm.)
Painted in 1932
F.G. Graindorge, Liège (by 1956).
Maurice d'Arquian, Brussels.
Private collection, Brussels (acquired from the above, 1958); sale, Christie's, London, 30 November 1981, lot 38.
Daniel Filipacchi, Paris (by 1999).
David Tunkl Fine Art, Los Angeles.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 27 February 2006.
R. Descharnes and G. Néret, Salvador Dalí: The Paintings, Cologne, 1994, vol. I, p. 179 (illustrated in color, p. 178, pl. 401).
Knokke-Le Zoute, Salvador Dalí, July-September 1956, p. 13, no. 14 (titled Chevalier à la tour).
New York, The Solomon R. Guggeneim Museum, Surrealism: Two Private Eyes, The Nesuhi Ertegun and Daniel Filipacchi Collections, June-September 1999, p. 102, no. 48 (illustrated in color; titled Le chevalier et la tour).


A weary wayfarer approaches an ancient tower. If he is in fact a courtly gentleman, he has fallen on hard times—he is lean and half-naked, clad in tattered rags; balancing his sole belongings in a package atop his head, he carries a pilgrim’s staff. The sight of the tall tower, he hopes, is a favorable portent, which may hold a gift of alms and whatever immediate necessities he requires.
The figures and landscape site in this scene are related to the psycho-sexual confession Rêverie (“Daydream”), which Dalí dated Port-Lligat, 17 October 1931. He had been staying in the seaside Catalunyan town with his inamorata Gala; in Rêverie he claimed to be working on a study of Arnold Böcklin’s painting The Isle of the Dead (H. Finkelstein, ed., The Collected Writings of Salvador Dalí, Cambridge, 1998, pp. 150-162). Dalí, then 27, introduced the setting: “I see myself the way I am now but appreciably older. In addition, I have let my beard grow, modeled on an old memory I have of a lithograph of Monte-Cristo. Friends have lent me for about ten days a large manor farmhouse… named the Tower Mill, in which, when I was ten years old, I spent two months with a couple of intimate friends of my parents” (quoted in ibid., p. 153).
Dalí was alluding to the year 1916, when he was actually twelve years old. His parents in Figueres had sent him to spend the summer months on the nearby estate El Molí de la Torre, owned by the Catalan impressionist painter Ramon Pichot, a friend of Picasso, through whose collection the boy first became acquainted with modern French painting. One may assume that the summer spent at the Tower Mill marked the momentous awakening of Dalí’s pre-adolescent sexuality, memories of which continued to fan the flames of his libidinous fantasies for years afterwards. He began reading Freud in Spanish translation in the early 1920s.
Rêverie was published in the fourth issue of Le surréalisme au service de la révolution, December 1931, with articles by André Breton, Louis Aragon, and others. Dalí later altered and elaborated on the contents of Rêverie to comprise Chapter 5, “True Childhood Memories”—as “The Story of the Linden Blossom Picking and the Crutch”—in his memoir The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, published in New York, 1942 (pp. 89-111). In the present Le cavalier à la tour, Dalí imagined himself as an old wanderer, who revisits a place and memories of his youth that had haunted him for a lifetime. The boy Dalí and Pichot appear as tiny figures on the Embordà, the plain in the middle distance. The artist included El Molí de la Torre in three other paintings during the early 1930s.

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