Listening to Art

02.12: Salvador Dalí, Christ of Saint John of the Cross

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Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume two, number twelve: Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí dates from 1951. To introduce it I will read from Dalí’s The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, published in 1942 (pp. 306–307).

It was the season for lima beans. I was finishing a long meal of which the principal dish had been precisely this extraordinary vegetable which so resembles a prepuce. The Catalonians have a way of flavoring beans which makes this one of my favorite dishes. For this they have to be cooked with bacon and the very fat Catalonian buttifara, and the secret consists in putting into the mixture a little chocolate and some laurel leaves. I had eaten my fill and was looking absentmindedly, though fixedly, at a piece of bread. It was the heel of a long loaf, lying on the belly, and I could not cease looking at it. Finally I took it and kissed the very tip of it, then with my tongue I sucked it a little to soften it, after which I stuck the softened part on the table, where it remained standing. I had just reinvented Columbus’s egg: the bread of Salvador Dalí. I had discovered the enigma of bread: it could stand up without having to be eaten! This thing so atavistically and consubstantially welded to the idea of “primary utility,” the elementary basis of continuity, the symbol of “nutrition,” of sacred “subsistence,” this thing, I repeat, tyrannically inherent in the “necessary,” I was going to render useless and esthetic. I was going to make surrealist objects with bread. Nothing could be simpler than to cut out two neat, regular holes on the back of the loaf and insert an inkwell in each one. What could be more degrading and esthetic than to see this bread-ink-stand become gradually stained in the course of use with the involuntary spatterings of “Pelican” ink? A little rectangle of the bread-inkstand would be just the thing to stick the pens into when one was through writing. And if one wanted to have one’s bread-inkwell-carrier changed every morning, just as one changes one’s sheets …

Upon arriving in Paris, I said to everyone who cared to listen, “Bread, bread and more bread. Nothing but bread.”

This is a painting, oil on canvas, 115.9 cm wide by 204.8 cm high.

Now let’s listen to Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí, recorded at the Royal Academy of Arts, in London, England, on 21 December 2017.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

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All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

Dalí, Salvador. The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí. Translated by Haakon M. Chevalier. New York: Dover, 1993.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Christ of Saint John of the Cross,”

⸻, s.v. “Salvador Dalí,”í.