0309-Shades of night descending (1931)

Oil on canvas, 50 x 61 cm The Salvador Dali Museum, St Petersburg (Florida)

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Shades of night descending (1931)
Ombres de la nuit descendante

Analysis: The obsessive character of this work is made evident by one of the less important elements and the least noticed by the viewer: the measureless shadow which is spread out in the bottom part of the canvas. Its obsessional power is obtained by having in the center a rock whose shadow is much less dense that that of the one in the foreground. In appearance this reef seems to be a rock like the others; however, it is already constructed in such a way that its shadow bears a resemblance, due to its design, to the one in the foreground. Their source is moreover quite different, and it is there that the painter has successfully applied his famous paranoiac-critical method.
The shadow in the foreground is that of a concert grand piano, an instrument which holds a predominant place in many of Dalí’s Surrealist compositions, such as “Diurnal Illusion: the Shadow of a Grand Piano Approaching“, 1931; “Average Bureaucrat“; “Six apparitions of Lenin on a Grand Piano“, 1931; or “Myself at the Age of Ten When I Was a Grasshopper Child“, 1933. This piano is “the one that belonged to the Pichots with its shadows,” Dalí relates; “I was impressed by these shadows in the setting sun, near the tall cypress in the interior court of the house, and another time when they had brought the instrument onto the rocks beside the water.” The spectral victory standing in the lower-right corner of the picture is concealing heteroclite objects, half-hidden under the drapery in whose tortured folds the figure is wrapped. Two of these things, a glass and a shoe, are used with the same impact to stretch out the skin on the back of the figure in Diurnal Illusion. Speaking of his fetishism, Dalí has said, “It was a question of all the fetishes and slippers of my childhood fossilized underneath the membranes of my anguish, all mimetized at Cap Creus.” Shoe fetishes appear often in scenes of “Bureaucratic cannibalism” where one can see the most varied figures: a girl, Nietzche, or Maxim Gorky devouring a high-heeled shoe.