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The Messages in Salvador Dali's Most Famous Painting

Antonia R.Antonia R.
Salvador Dali

The most famous painting by Spanish artist Salvador Dali is The Persistence of Memory. The messages found in the elements of this masterpiece are seen as crucial for Surrealism.

Dali explained that he called his painting The Persistence of Memory because of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who said that time was measured using our thoughts.

The artist described his work as a photograph of a dream. In it he combined clocks, a mountain, the sea and a tree, all loaded with messages. Through the painting, Salvador Dali re-created the entire reality surrounding us.

The soft and melting watches are a symbol of time, which flows unevenly, just to fill the space. 3 of the clocks symbolize the past, present and future.

The solid clock symbolizes objective time.

The blurry object, that has a clock sitting on top of it, symbolizes a sleeping Dali. The artist himself stated in his autobiography that dreams are closely connected with death and love. Sleep is a miniature version of death according to Dali and proof of his defenselessness.

The ants are a symbol of decay and mortality. They were painted on one of the clocks to show that time destroys itself.

The persistence of memory

For Dali, the fly is a symbol of inspiration. In the Diary of a Genius, he wrote that most ancient Greek philosophers were inspired by flies.

The olive tree in the painting represents the ancient wisdom which has now dried up.

The sea is a symbol of eternity and immortality. Out at sea, time flows according to the internal movement of the traveler.

The egg represents life. This image was borrowed from the ancient Greek mystics, called Orphics. They stated that the first creature on Earth came from the egg.

The mirror in the painting signifies the inconsistency and volatility of time.

The Spanish artist Salvador Dali is one of the brightest names in the world of painting. Inspired by his muse Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, nicknamed Gala, he created unique masterpieces in art, as well as in graphics and sculpture.