Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Bite 116: Salvador Dali - Anthropomorphic Chest of Drawers, 1936

Anthropomorphic Chest of Drawers, 1936, oil on wood, 25 x 43 cm, K20, Düsseldorf
Frail hand extended, rejecting the outside world, a disjointed figure - a chest of drawers for a chest - looks within itself, head down. Drawers pulled out, darkness within, the exterior world represented in the top right corner (it appears to be Cologne with its double-spired cathedral), seems to retreat, casting an ethereal light on the disconcerting figure.

A small oil painting on wood with a large frame, the work typifies Dali's approach as a skilled painter referencing the style of the old-masters, while the subject matter sits is stark contrast to this technique, showing a woman simultaneously opening up and withdrawing.

A manifestation of Freudian internalisation and reclusion, the woman (with draw-handles for nipples) is engrossed by the drawers that have spontaneously opened from within her, threatening to disclose their contents - her interior world -, a white cloth protruding from one. In this sense the anthropomorphic cabinet becomes a symbol of psychoanalysis. This motif appears in other forms in Dali's work such as the sculpture/furniture piece Venus de Milo with Chest of Drawers (1936/64) which stands near Anthropomorphic Chest of Drawers in Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (K20).