Research Repository

Dalí's Religious Models: the Iconography of Martyrdom and its Contemplation

Escribano, Miguel (2016) Dalí's Religious Models: the Iconography of Martyrdom and its Contemplation. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

Final edit, Thesis.pdf

Download (11MB) | Preview


This thesis investigates Dalí’s adoption of religious iconography to help represent themes that he had conceptualised through Surrealism, psychoanalysis and other thought systems. His selective use of sources was closely bound to his life circumstances, and I integrate biographical details in my analysis of his paintings. I identify unexpected sources of Dalí's images, and demonstrate how alert he was to the psychological motivations of traditional art. I find he made especial use of the iconography of martyrdom – and the perceptual and cognitive mechanics of the contemplation of death – that foreground the problem of the sexual and mortal self. Part I examines the period 1925-7, when Dalí developed an aesthetic outlook in dialogue with Lorca, formulated in his text, 'Sant Sebastià'. Representations of Sebastian and other martyr saints provided patterns for Dalí's exposition of the generative and degenerating self. In three chapters, based on three paintings, I plot the shift in Dalí's focus from the surface of the physical body – wilfully resistant to emotional engagement, and with classical statuary as a model – to its problematic interior, vulnerable to forces of desire and corruption. This section shows how Dalí's engagement with religious art paradoxically brought him into alignment with Surrealism. In Part II, I contend that many of the familiar images of Dalí’s Surrealist period – in which he considered the self as a fundamentally psychic rather than physical entity – can be traced to the iconography of contemplative saints, particularly Jerome. Through the prism of this re-interpretation, I consider Jerome's task of transcribing Biblical meaning in the context of psychoanalytical theories of cultural production. In Part III, I show how Dalí's later, overt use of religious imagery evolved from within his Surrealism. I trace a condensed, personalised life-narrative through Dalí’s paintings of 1948-52, based on Biblical mythology, but compatible with psychoanalytical theory: from birth to death to an ideal return to the mother's body.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BS The Bible
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NB Sculpture
N Fine Arts > ND Painting
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
Depositing User: Miguel Escribano
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2016 15:59
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2021 01:00

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item