Two paintings by Salvador Dali – “Gradiva” and “House for the erotomania” – will be the top lots on the evening sale of surrealism art, that will be held by the auction house Sotheby’s in London in late February. Recently opened canvases from the early 1930s were in the collection of the Argentine Countess, who bought them directly from the artist, wile they were friends.

Each of this newfound paintings estimates for £1.2 – 1.8 million pounds ($1.7 – 2.5 million).

Tota de Cuevas de Vera on the veranda of the house. Photo: Sotheby’s

Maria de las Mercedes Adela Atucha and Lavayol became a countess, married with the aristocrat de Cuevas de Vere, but everyone called her Thoth. She was born in a highly educated noble family and spent her whole life between Buenos Aires and Europe, especially France. The residence of her parents in Argentina was designed by the famous French architect René Serzhan, who built the Savoy and Claridge’s hotels in London.

The fact that Tota’s parents entrusted her with the erection of his family home, speaks of their interest in the avant-garde and modernism.

Countess’ friends were famouse artists, such as Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Max Ernst, Le Corbusier, Man Ray, writer Jean Cocteau, film director Luis Bunuel and many other celebrities who worked in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s.

Gradiva Salvador Dali 1931

The composition ‘Gradiva’ (ca.1931), unites Dali’s unique artistic vision with the technical virtuosity characteristic of his early surrealistic works. This half-naked woman, written out in great detail, embodies the mythological Gradiv – a novel character written by Wilhelm Jensen (was published in 1902).

The main character of the novel, a young archaeologist, is obsessed with a female figure from the ancient Roman bas-relief to the point that he falls in love with her and imagines in reality. This story was later used by Sigmund Freud in analyzing the idealization of beauty and ideas about projected and true love. Dali also associated Gradi with his wife Gala. They met in 1929 in Cadaqués, where Gala and her former husband Paul Eluar came to visit the artist. Soon it became the center of Dali’s personal and artistic life.

House for erotomania
Salvador Dali

The next painting, “House for the erotomaniac”, conveys the Catalan landscape, whose cliffs turn into a fantastic image, in which two entities dominate. The limbs of the figure on the left are transformed into a horse, a cello and a car, and two spears pierce an incomprehensible but somewhat anthropomorphic stone on the right. These hallucinatory compositions, visual manifestations of the subconscious impressed Sigmund Freud, who first met the artist in 1939.

Two anthropomorphic rocks are associated with the famous painting “Anzhelus” by 19th-century painter Jean-Francois Millet, who inspired a number of works by Dali in the early 1930s. In some compositions, he directly refers to the masterpiece of the French colleague, placing the two figures in an imaginary landscape. In the “House for the erotomaniac” allusion is less obvious, here two forms turn into giant stones that dominate the surrounding landscape.

Angelus (Evening Prayer)
Jean-Francois Millet
1850’s, 53.3 × 66 cm

The right rock repeats the original pose of a peasant woman with a picture of Millet standing in profile, slightly bending her head. Its form is pierced by spears that extend from the body of a male companion. Simultaneously, the male and female figures in the lower left corner of the House for the Erotoman symbolize Dali and Gala, who met several years before the creation of the canvas. Transforming the Catalan hills into anthropomorphic sexually imaged images, the artist erodes the landscape, against which background his first encounters with his beloved were held.

Two of paintings, which Countess de Cuevas de Vera bought from Dali, were kept by her heirs to this day.

Rene Magritte, “Heavenly Bottle”. Photo: Sotheby’s

In addition to them, the sale of art from the Surrealists will be exhibited several lots of another prominent representative of this movement – René Magritte. In particular, it is “Heavenly bottle” (estimate £600-800,000 or $835,000 – $1,115 000), one of the three vessels painted by the artist, kept from his widow until her death in 1986.

The image of a bright blue sky with white and gray clouds – one of the most iconic of Magritte. He appears in his paradoxical landscapes or inscribed in figures, for example, birds.



Lost rider
Rene Magritte
XX century

Another interesting lot will be the painting with gouache “The Lost Rider” (£1 – 1,5 million or $1,400 000 – $2 million), inspired with the paintings of the Renaissance master Paolo Uccello, who lived and worked in the XV century.

In addition, on February 28, the auction house Sotheby’s will display also the artworks by Max Ernst, Mana Ray and Yves Tanguy.