Revealed: the scientific principles behind Dalí’s surrealist eccentricity

Unpublished drawings show a scrupulous painter inspired by the precise mathematical ratios of the Renaissance masters

An early sketch for Salvador Dalí’s The Sacrament of the Last Supper reveals that the artist’s original thinking was far more conventional than the finished work would suggest. The painting, one of Dalí’s most popular, is a vast depiction of the Last Supper in which an ethereal torso with outstretched arms, possibly the resurrected Christ, looms over seated figures of Christ – portrayed with the features of the artist’s wife, Gala – and the apostles. The sketch reveals that Dalí’s original thinking was closer to Leonardo da Vinci’s interpretation of the event.

It is one of three Dalí drawings believed to be previously unpublished, each relating to his famous paintings of the mid-1950s, including Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus), in which he painted Gala as a devotional figure before a crucified Christ, and Skull of Zurbarán, his homage to the 17th-century Spanish master Francisco de Zurbarán.

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