The original painting - The Angelus (1859) by Jean Francois Millet
The Angelus was reproduced frequently in the 19th and 20th centuries. Salvador Dalí was fascinated by this work, and wrote an analysis of it, The Tragic Myth of The Angelus of Millet. “In June 1932, there suddenly came to my mind without any close or conscious association, which would have provided an immediate explanation, the image of The Angelus of Millet. This image consisted of a visual representation which was very clear and in colors. It was nearly instantaneous and was not followed by other images. It made a very great impression on me, and was most upsetting to me because, although in my vision of the afore-mentioned image everything corresponded exactly to the reproductions of the picture with which I was familiar, it appeared to me nevertheless absolutely modified and charged with such latent intentionality that The Angelus of Millet Suddenly’ became for me the pictorial work which was the most troubling, the most enigmatic, the most dense and the richest in unconscious thoughts that I had ever seen.”
Dali thought that there was something hidden in the canvas due to the presence of a feeling of anguish. Confirming Dali’s own interpretation of the picture, an X-ray examination of Millet’s canvas has revealed a geometrical shape between the two figures, the coffin of their dead child. This part was painted over by the artist to make the picture more saleable.
Dali had been obsessed with the image as a child, finding parallels between that and two cypress trees that stood outside his classroom. He also began to see The Angelus in “visions” in objects around him: once in a lithograph of cherries, once in two stones on a beach. The Architectonic Angelus of Millet was based upon this latter “vision”. The tragic myth of Millet’s Angelus is one of Dali’s most profound fantasies.
In The Architectonic Angelus (1933) the Angelus couple are transformed into two huge, white stones that loom over the Catalonian landscape. Dali pointed out that although the male stone on the left appears to be dominant due to its size, the female stone is the aggressor here, pushing out a part of herself to make physical contact with the male. The often-used image of the young Dali with his father can be seen sheltering underneath the male stone.
The Angelus of Gala (1935) contains two versions of The Angelus: the first is the unusual portrait of a double Gala, the second is the reproduction of The Angelus above Gala’s head. Looking at the pictureof The Angelus above Gala, the female perches on the wheelbarrow, as does the main figure. The female in The Angelus is sexually aggressive; like a praying mantis, ready to devour her mate after receiving the attention that she hunts for.
In Archeological Reminescence of Millet’s Angelus (1935) the original two Angelus figures have been transformed into towering architectural ruins, which probably were inspired by Dali’s visits to the Roman ruins near his childhood home. The third figure of the dead son is absent in this rendition of Dali’s obsession with the original Millet painting. Instead, the female has been made to look even more like a praying mantis, thus reinforcing Dali’s association of sex with death. Dali spent time on the plain of Ampurdan, and has added elements from that landscape into this one.
The other Dali’s paintings with the motif of Millet’s The Angelus are: Gala and the Angelus of Millet Preceding the Imminent Arrival of the Conical Anamorphoses (1933) and Atavism at twilight (1933).
Edited by Redcarmoose - 1/25/12 at 12:33am