Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire (1940) by Salvador Dali

Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire - Salvador Dali - 1940

Artwork Information

TitleSlave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire
ArtistSalvador Dali
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions46.5 x 65.5 cm
Art MovementSurrealism
Current LocationSalvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, FL, US

About Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire

The artwork “Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire” was created by Salvador Dali in 1940, and it embodies the Surrealist movement through its oil on canvas medium. Measuring 46.5 by 65.5 cm, this genre painting is part of the collection at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, USA.

The artwork presents a scene that is rich in allegory and symbolic complexity, characteristic of Dali’s artistic oeuvre. The foreground features what appears to be a slave market. On the left, a woman with her back turned is seated, draped with a cloth that resembles a turban over her head. In the center, the market scene unfolds within an architectural space framed by archways, beneath which figures are gathered, some adorned in what appear to be ecclesiastic garments.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this painting is the ‘disappearing’ effect Dali achieves with the bust of Voltaire. At a glance, one can discern the likeness of the French Enlightenment writer in the mingling forms of two figures, a clever use of an optical illusion often referred to as a “double image.” This visual trickery allows the viewer to toggle between seeing the assembled figures and the suggestion of Voltaire’s profile, effectively entwining human forms into the semblance of a face.

Moreover, various other instances within the artwork hint at double imagery and transformative visuals that engage with the subconscious, inviting interpretation and challenging perception in true Surrealist fashion. It is a testament to Dali’s fascination with psychology, the interplay between the conscious and subconscious realms, and his skillful manipulation of visual language to evoke enigmatic narratives.

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