Escenografía de mesa con candelabros (Boceto para la escenografía de «Don Juan Tenorio») (Stage Design of Table with Candelabra [Sketch for the Stage Design of «Don Juan Tenorio»])

Salvador Dalí

Figueras, Girona, Spain, 1904 - 1989
  • Date: 
  • Technique: 
    Watercolour, Indian ink and pencil on paperboard
  • Dimensions: 
    12,5 x 14,5 cm
  • Category: 
    Work on paper, Drawing, Theatre
  • Entry date: 
  • Observations: 
    Entry date: 1988 (from the redistribution of the Museo Español de Arte Contemporáneo [MEAC] collection)
  • Register number: 

Salvador Dalí’s shift towards theatricality brought one of the most pronounced fields of experimentation in his stage designs, be it for theatre, film or television productions. Consequently, the Museo Reina Sofía Collection conserves an ensemble of works made up of 18 sketches for the mise en scène created for the theatre production Don Juan Tenorio, written in 1844 by José Zorrilla and conceived by its author as a religious-romantic-fantasy drama. Dalí undertook this stage production in 1949, the time of his recent return to Spain following a lengthy spell in the USA, where he worked on several similar collaborations. Throughout the previous decade Dalí had centred a large part of his artistic and literary work on building a personage, stressing its mask-like character. Theatricality permeated through his work and shaped his role as a performance artist as he fused mythology and philosophical references with popular and trivial imagery, primarily through mass culture. To produce these sketches Dalí applied this new experimentation, but also considered the adaptation of a classical theatre play tied to Romanticism and within a context of Spanish culture, which, whether from a subsumed and conservative standpoint or from diffident opposition, was adapted to the ideological apparatus of the Franco regime. As a result, the overhaul of the said mise en scène was steeped in symbols, representing a time of transition in Surrealist imagery, a shift towards what Dalí would call shortly afterwards “neo-mysticism”, which drew on a return to classical painters whilst concealing an air of irony. The play was performed in Madrid for two successive years (1940 and 1950), and was directed by Luis Escobar and Huberto Pérez de la Ossa, the former commissioning Dalí’s work. The selection of conserved sketches belongs to a second version from 1950, in which the show of fantasy was more profound and caused a huge uproar among audiences and critics. The artist used this work as a presentation strategy for the circles of Francoist culture in Spain, helping him to introduce the eccentric and inimitable artist mould that would shape the latter stages of his career, with his performance facet holding huge avant-garde and experimental value.

Lola Hinojosa Martínez