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Arts

Salvador Dali's exhumation: Even his iconic mustache survived

Samples of the remains of the surrealist Spanish painter have been removed to undergo a paternity test. His embalmed body was in "good condition."

The Gala Salvador Dali Foundation confirmed on Friday morning that forensic experts have taken DNA samples from the remains of Salvador Dali (1904-1989), to conduct a paternity test. The biological specimens from his hair, nails and two long bones will be sent to Madrid to undergo the necessary tests, a process that could take weeks.

Nearly three decades after his death, the Spanish painter's body, mummified after an embalming process, is "in good condition," said Marta Felip, mayor of Figueres, who was present at the late-night exhumation in the Catalonian City's Dali Theater and Museum.

A coffin being carried into the museum for Dali's exhumation (picture alliance/AP/M. Fernandez)

A coffin was carried into the museum for Dali's exhumation on Thursday

Even his charismatic mustache could still to be recognized, with "its classic shape of 10 past 10," said Lluis Penuelas Reixach, the secretary general of the Gala Dali Foundation, referring to the position of the hands of a clock.     

Salvador Dali was buried in a crypt in the Dali Theater and Museum, under a 1.5-ton slab, when he died at 84 years old in 1989.

The artist had designed the elaborate museum himself and it is a top tourist site, drawing over 1.1 million visitors last year.

Read: Dali, Breton, Magritte: The attraction of surrrealism

While hundreds of journalists and onlookers gathered in front of the museum, the exhumation was held behind closed doors on Thursday evening. Dali's foundation made sure no images of the exhumation were made public. Before work in the crypt began on Thursday, mobile phones were put in a deposit and the museum's glass dome was covered to prevent drone photography or videos.

Pilar Abel (picture alliance/AP/F. Seco)

Pilar Abel claims Salvador Dali is her father

Paternity test to settle ongoing legal battle

The paternity test had been ordered by a judge to settle a lawsuit by Pilar Abel, a 61-year-old fortune teller who claims that her mother had had an affair with the surrealist artist in the 1950s and believes that Dali is her father.

If her allegations turn out to be true, she would be the only daughter of the famous 20th-century painter, and that would give her a chance to claim a quarter of his huge fortune, estimated at nearly 400 million euros ($460 million) at the end of 2016, according to the Salvador Dali Foundation.

The Foundation was obviously not enthusiastic about the procedure: "This was a very uncomfortable situation for the Foundation; it made us very sad - not only us, but many people who loved him," said Lluis Penuelas, general secretary of the foundation, at the press conference following the exhumation.

Watch video 02:04

Dali's body exhumed

"A day like this arouses in me a great deal of feeling because it reminds me of the day of his death," said Maria Lorca, who was the mayor of Figueras at the time of Dali's death.

However, she also felt the eccentric artist would have enjoyed the atmosphere outside the museum. "He would feel at home, it is a day that suits his way of being," Lorca said.

eg/kbm (AFP, dpa, AP)

 

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