Victoire de Samothrace | Bronze | 20″ x 9″ x 6″ | Edition #6/8
Sculpture model for the Chateau Vaux le Pénil
Bronze with gold patina with matt and polish finish
From the collection of Jean Christophe Argillet who inherited the work from his father, Pierre Argillet – Salvador Dali’s publisher and long-time collaborator.
Salvador Dalí was nothing if not a master of the unexpected: His strange, mystical juxtapositions so often seem superficially incongruous but obey entirely some mysterious logic all his own. His 1973 sculpture, Victoire de Samothrace, sculpture model for the Chateau Vaux le Pénil, was no exception, marrying Greek mythology, Catholic Theology, Freudian symbolism, and paranoid Cold War science — a kind of “nuclear mysticism,” as Dalí called it. Ahead of an Online-only sale of small scale sculptures by Picasso and others, Christie’s Impressionist & Modern Art Specialist, Tom Best, deconstructs Victoire de Samothrace — revealing, among other things, some of the unique reasons for Dalí’s obsession with Jesus Christ.
Like Picasso, like all the great artists, Dalí was obsessive. He had always been very religious, but in the late 1950s – 70s, he became obsessed with Catholicism and started incorporating the Christ figure into his work in all mediums from bronze to wax, to oil. Dalí thought that the more people knew about science, the more the younger generation would leave all that behind and get back to God. They would return to religious faith because science would bring an end to materialism. From his scientific interests, he created an idea of “nuclear mysticism” which is a Dalinian blend of atomic theory and Catholicism. Victoire de Samothrace appears as an exploding atomic figure combined with the very Catholic symbol of Christ on the cross; a combination of the scientific developments of the time and the return to holy faith.
This sculpture was intended as part of the restoration process for the Chateau Vaux le Pénil, after it had been occupied by the Nazi’s during the Second World War. Dalí and de Chirico helped with the restoration in 1944 as they experimented with the idea of a Musée du Surrealism. Dalí was involved in lots of museums and restorations around that time including his own, the Dalí Theatre-Museum. Dalí would be heavily involved in all the details from the exterior and architecture down to the minute details of the interior and decoration. The outside of the Dalí Theatre-Museum has a façade of art deco dummies and eggs. I imagine he wanted to have the current work in a similar sort of arrangement at the Chateau Vaux le Pénil.
A beautiful feature of the sculpture is the physical link that it has creates back to Dalí’s creative working. Looking closely, you can see the indentation of his fingers where they worked on the cloth background and molded the form. In images we’ve seen of him holding and posing with the model, you are able to see his hands and his fingers directly linked to the work. Looking at the traces of his fingers in this bronze, you can imagine him turning the original plaster over in his hands, moving around and pushing on the creases to create the folds in the background. It is a wonderful feeling of how he was working and the creation of the work itself.