Bonhams has announced highlights for its upcoming impressionist and modern art auction in London. The sale was rescheduled from its original date in March before the pandemic lockdown and will now take place on October 15. Among the top lots is Salvador Dalí’s Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages (1937). It is expected to achieve a price of £7 million–10 million ($9.1 to $13 million).
Coming from the collection of Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi, this is the first time the work will be offered at auction. It has resided in the Fondazione Isabella Scelsi Collection in Rome since 1987. Dalí completed Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages (1937) amid the Spanish Civil War during the apex of his career in the 1930s. The diptych features the artist and his wife Gala’s framed silhouettes. Each panel features a desert scene appearing to form a single landscape, depicting key surrealist motifs throughout.
“It is full of the highly personal imagery that made Dalí perhaps the most exciting member of the Surrealist group during these years of experimentation, revealing his obsession with Freudian psychology as much as his obsession with his great lover and muse Gala,” said India Phillips, Global Head of Bonhams Impressionist & Modern Art department said of the work in a statement.
“While the now-famous image of the girl skipping was employed by Dalí to symbolize childhood memories, the burning giraffe represents “the masculine cosmic apocalyptic monster” – a timely premonition of war. Dalí painted these monumental panels at a time of intense personal discovery and expression, while the world around him erupted into conflict” said Phillips. Among the other recognizable features are the rock landscapes, which imitate the coastline of Cadaques and Port Lligat, where the artist lived as a child.
The work has been widely exhibited throughout Europe, most recently at Barcelona’s Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in the 2018 exhibition, “Gala Salvador Dalí, A Room of One’s Own at Púbol”, and the Royal Academy of Art, London, showcase, “Dalí/Duchamp,” the year prior. A comparable double portrait, which shares the same title, and was completed in 1936 is in the permanent collection of the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam.
The current auction record for a work by Dali is £13.4 million ($21.5 million) for a portrait of Paul Eluard that sold at Sotheby’s London in 2011. In 2012 at Sothebys in London, another top works by the artist, Printemps Necrophilique (1936), sold for $16.3 million.
Other sale highlights include Femme allongée, Youki by Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita estimated at £500,000-700,000, and Le retour des régates by Raoul Dufy estimated at £250,000-350,000.