Artist: Salvador Dalí
Media: Oil paint
Paradoxically, this painting, which has an erotic appearance, is the most chaste of all. – Salvador Dali on Young Virgin Auto-Sodomized by Her Own Chastity
I’ve always loved this little work, sold a few years back, for around a million dollars or more at auction, departing from its long-time home in the Playboy mansion in California.
This painting documents Dali’s interest in exaggerating the representation of the female form and the possibilities of an abstracted background. The main force within the painting is clearly its sexual allusion: the horned shapes hovering around the woman are overtly phallic, and the painting’s title offers a direct clue about the aggressively sexual tone of the work. Dali’s preoccupation with the phallus was a central theme throughout his career, though the degrees to which his works were representational or abstract differed period to period.
Two sources of inspiration can be cited in this work. One is a nylons advertisement Dali had seen in a newspaper, and on which he based the look and positioning of the woman, including the seamed stockings. We can also find a comparison with his Figure at the Window of 1925, which shows his sister-model, Ana Maria, in a similar pose, looking out at the nearby sea. At least one writer has floated the possibility that the latter work was a sardonic poke at Dali’s sister, since she’d written a book about her famous brother that Dali considered less than flattering. Was that Dali’s intent here? The similarities between the two paintings are unmistakable. Dear reader – you decide.
The woman’s curly locks recall pictures such as Dali’s Girl with Curls of 1926, featuring a woman with a curvaceous and sexy body, though fully clothed. Like the earlier work, Young Virgin has both an erotic and charming tone to it, although some would disagree with that observation. But for me, there’s something about the naked lady’s relaxed, casual attitude – one foot flirtatiously tipped out of her shoe, the hint of that traditional seamed stocking – that lends a certain charm or innocence to an otherwise erotic canvas. Perhaps it’s as if she’s unaware, as she leans dreamily at the window, that phallic rhino horns are about to invade her personal and private world. Oh, the shame of it all.
Like Dali’s iconic Persistence of Memory – on which Gala commented that no one could forget it once they see it – no one can be neutral or blasé about Young Virgin Auto-Sodomized by Her Own Chastity.