The body of Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali was exhumed Thursday, following a controversial Madrid court ruling in favor of a woman who claims to be his daughter.
Dali once said, “Great geniuses produce mediocre children, and I don’t want to go through that experience.” But Maria Pilar Abel doesn’t think he kept that word.
The 61-year-old woman says her mother, who was a maid in one of Dali’s seasonal homes in Port Lligat, maintained a clandestine relationship with the artist. Abel wants a paternity test.
A stone slab had to be removed before forensic scientists could access the body, which has been resting in The Dali Theatre and Museum in Figueres since Dali’s death in 1989.
They collected samples of DNA from the hair and teeth of the embalmed body, Abel’s lawyer says. Results are expected within two weeks.
Abel tried to complete a paternity test in 2007 with DNA from belongings her alleged father left behind, but results proved inconclusive. The Madrid Supreme Court agreed there were no other reliable remains.
It stated the objective of the exhumation was “to get samples of his remains to determine whether he is the biological father of a woman from Girona (in northeastern Spain) who filed a claim to be recognized as the daughter of the artist.”
The Salvador Dali Foundation, which runs the museum, vowed to appeal the court ruling back in June, but to no avail.
In a statement, the foundation said that, while it respected the court’s decisions and cooperated with the exhumation, it “considers the exhumation performed on Salvador Dali’s remains entirely inappropriate.”
“There is no evidence that claimant Pilar Abel Martinez’s claim has any legal basis, as the only grounds provided constitute a notarial statement from a woman who claims to be a friend of the mother, stating that the latter told her that her daughter’s father was Salvador Dali,” the Foundation said.
Dali, known for his pencil-thin mustache and eclectic persona, is acclaimed for surreal paintings with equally eclectic features, like melting clocks.
He died at the age of 84. He and his wife Gala, whom he wed in 1934, never had children. She died in 1982.
Some biographers wrote Dali was scared of his sexuality — that he feared being impotent or gay. He and Gala lived near each other, but not together. They were married over 50 years, but she was primarily his muse.
Abel was born in Figueres in 1956, meaning the affair would have occurred when Dali was 51 and her mother, 25.
For over a decade, Abel’s family has tried to prove she is Dali’s daughter.
The decision to exhume Dali has provoked strong attitudes within the town.
“Her mother should know it perfectly, if he is the father or not. They should have said it before and searched for the DNA before they had to do what they have to do now,” Margarita Pescador told CNN while visiting the museum.
“I don’t know if this lady does it to earn money, or just to say that she’s the daughter, but it’s fine that she seeks to know who her father is,” one local man, Jose Luis Navarro, said.
This story was updated to include a statement from the Salvador Dali Foundation.