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Mae West Lips Sofa

Mae West Lips Sofa

Salvador Dalí (in 1938)

Ask anything

  • Amelia asked

    Is this the same what is in Figueras?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dear Amelia, there are a few sofas in existence. One is indeed located in the Dalí Theatre and Museum in Figueres, another in the UK and one stored at the Depot. Best, Lisa

  • Juliette asked

    Est-ce possible de voir le cartel de cette oeuvre (avec dimensions, matériaux etc.) ?
    Is that possible to see the cartel of this artwork ? (with dimensions, materials, ...)

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dear Juliette, For questions about dimensions and materials, please check the specification part which is under the artwork. Best, Lisa

  • etoile asked

    Où est cette ouvre d'art ?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hi Etoile, this work was in Hamburg before, but now it's back again at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and on view in our exhibition Mad About Surrealism! (until 28 May 2017) Best, Rianne

  • etoile asked

    Où est cette ouvre d'art ?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    A ce moment c'est en Hamburg, pour l'exhibition Surrealism and Beyond. Mais a partir de 11 Fevrier cette ouvre est autre fois en Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.


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More information

The museum's collection of surrealistic art is not restricted to paintings and sculptures. In recent years, a number of design objects have been acquired, including the lobster telephone and the Mae West Lips Sofa. Dalì designed this sofa with his English benefactor Edward James. The lips of sex symbol and film star Mae West were the inspiration for this titillating piece of furniture. Three pairs were made of his sofa, each different.

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Collection book

Collection book Order


Title Mae West Lips Sofa
Material and technique Wood, woollen flannel, cotton and brass rivets
Object type
Sofa > Furniture > Living > Utensil
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Height 92 cm
Width 215 cm
Depth 75 cm
Artists Artist: Salvador Dalí
Executor: Green & Abbott
Accession number V 2280 (KN&V)
Credits Purchased with the support of Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and Rembrandt Association (made possible thanks to the contribution of its Dura Kunstfonds), 2003
Department Applied Arts & Design
Acquisition date 2003
Creation date in 1938
Entitled parties © Salvador Dalí, Fundación Gala-Salvador Dalí, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2022
Provenance Edward James, Chichester 1938-64; Edward James Foundation, Chichester 1964-85; The Mayor Gallery, London 1985; private collection, 1985-03; Christie’s London, 8 October 2003, lot. 64
Exhibitions Barcelona/Madrid/St Petersburg 2004-05; Venice/Philadelphia 2004-05; Rotterdam 2005a; Paris 2009-10; Rotterdam 2013-14a; Edinburgh/Hamburg/Rotterdam 2016-17
Internal exhibitions Een paraplu, een naaimachine en een ontleedtafel. Surrealisme à la Dalí in Rotterdam. (2013)
Gek van surrealisme (2017)
External exhibitions Jean-Michel Frank (2009)
Surreal Encounters - Collecting the Marvellous (2016)
Dalí, Ernst, Miró, Magritte... (2016)
Dal nulla al sogno (2018)
Surrealist Art - Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (2021)
Only the Marvelous is Beautiful (2022)
Dalí, Magritte, Man Ray and Surrealism. Highlights from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (2023)
Research Show research Digitising Contemporary Art
Show research A dream collection - Surrealism in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Literature Dalí 1942, p. 279, fig. XII; Paris 1979, p. 232; Ades 1982, p. 164; Brighton 1998, pp. 27, 102; R. Descharnes/N. Descharnes 2003, pp. 40-41; Rotterdam 2007, pp. 28, 98-100; New York 2013, p. 204; Edinburgh 2016, pp. 10, 33, 206, 208, 217, 246, 258, cat. no. 46

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Entry catalogue Digitising Contemporary Art, A dream collection - Surrealism in Museum Boijmans Van beuningen

Author: Marijke Peyser

Salvador Dalí, 'Visage de Mae West pouvant être utilisé comme appartement surréaliste', 1934-35, gouache with graphite, on commercially printed magazine page, 283 x 178 mm. The Art Institute of Chicago

In 2003 Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen acquired a key work by Dalí: an original Mae West Lips Sofa made in 1938. The sofa was made by the British firm of Green & Abbott for Dalí’s patron Edward James,[1] and fitted in perfectly with the other Surrealist works the museum had obtained from Edward James and the Edward James Foundation.[2]

In 1936 James suggested that Dalí should refurbish the drawing room of his house in London as a Surrealist room. Although this project was never carried out they did make ambitious plans for the interior rooms.[3] Dalí had made the gouache Visage de Mae West pouvant être utilisé comme appartement surréaliste (Face of Mae West Which May Be Used as a Surrealist Apartment) in 1934-35. James believed that the shape of the film star’s lips could be used as the back and seats of a beautiful sofa.[4] We know of six early versions of the Mae West Lips Sofa – three pairs in different finishes. One of the two sofas in pink satin is now in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London; the second was once documented in the collection of Baron Roland d’Espree, but its current whereabouts are unknown. The second pair, made of red wool with a black fringe, from the dining room of James’s country house Monkton House, has also been split up: one is on loan to the Museum of the Moving Image in London and the other is owned by the Edward James Foundation. Lastly there is a pair upholstered in two shades of wool. The back and the seats are bright red. The base, which is edged with brass rivets and follows the contours of the mouth and back, is salmon pink as is the piping along the top. This pair, also once owned by James, was split up in 1983. One sofa was purchased by the Brighton Art Gallery and Museum. The second came on to the market again in 2003 and was auctioned at Christie’s in London and bought by the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Foundation with support from the Vereniging Rembrandt.[5]

The sofas must have been perceived as extremely racy. Being able to sit on a sensual mouth – the mouth of the famous sex symbol Mae West – must have felt like an indecent act. They were most certainly conversation pieces.[6] In 1926 Mae West was already front-page news because of her obscene lines in the stage play Sex, which she wrote, produced and starred in. In 1932 she played her first leading role in Hollywood in Night after Night by Archie Mayo. Her sexually-charged writing led to censorship by the Motion Picture Production Code. From then on, to get round the strict rules, she spoke in suggestive one-liners like, ‘Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?’ and ‘A hard man is good to find’. In 1936 Mae West was the best-paid actress in the world, but soon afterwards her career took a downturn. Dalí would have certainly felt drawn to her double entendres. After all he himself was a master of them. Like the White Aphrodisiac Telephone the Mae West Lips Sofa can be seen as a paranoiac piece of furniture, created according to Dalí’s paranoiac-critical method.[7]



[1] Venice/Philadelphia 2004-05, p. 284.

[2] See Van Kampen-Prein in this publication, pp. 27-29.

[3] Venice/Philadelphia 2004-05, p. 284, note 4: in 1938 James commissioned Green & Abbott to make a ‘torso set of drawers’ based on a design by Dalí.

[4] Ibid., p. 284.

[5] See MBVB Archives, Dalí object file, Mae West Lips Sofa.

[6] Rotterdam 2007, p. 100.

[7] For more about Dalí’s paranoiac-critical method, see p. 79.

Show research Digitising Contemporary Art Show research A dream collection - Surrealism in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
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All about the artist

Salvador Dalí

Figueras 1904 - Figueras 1989

Salvador Dali got to know the author André Breton - the founder of the surrealist movement - while he was studying in Madrid. In 1924, Breton wrote the first...

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