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The great masturbator (1929)
Le grand masturbateur
Analysis: “The Great Masturbator” is a selfportrait painted in July 1929. Dalí’s head has the shape of a rock formation near his home and is seen in this form in several paintings dating from 1929. The painting deals with Dalí’s fear and loathing of sex. He blamed his negative feelings toward sex as partly a result of reading his father’s, extremely graphic book on venereal diseases as a young boy.
The head is painted “soft”, as if malleable to the touch; it looks fatigued, sexually spent: the eyes are closed, the cheeks flushed. Under the nose a grasshopper clings, its abdomen covered with ants that crawl onto the face where a mouth should be. From early childhood, Dalí had a phobia of grasshoppers and the appearance of one here suggests his feelings of hysterical fear and a loss of voice or control.
Emerging from the right of the head, a woman moves her mouth toward a man’s crotch. The man’s legs are cut and bleeding, implying a fear of castration. The woman’s face is cracked, as though the image that Dalí’s head produces will soon disintegrate. To reiterate the sexual theme, the stamen of a lily and tongue of a lion appear underneath the couple.