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Shirley Temple, le plus jeune monstre sacré du cinéma de son temps

Shirley Temple, le plus jeune monstre sacré du cinéma de son temps

Salvador Dalí (in 1939)

Ask anything

  • Anna asked

    What are the two yellow figures in the background? They seem to be a man and a woman, but do they hold any meaning within the artwork?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hi Anna, Salvador Dalí was a surrealist artist and not interested in meaning in a logical sense. He wanted to confuse by creating 'a delirium of interpretation' and the elements in his images are derived from fantasy and dreams. The girl skipping rope occurs more often in his paintings, see for instance our big triptych 'Landscape with a girl skipping rope' (now on show in Antwerp). I am not sure about the other figure, probably a man who holds a child by the hand, but I would dare to say that both belong to his personal mythology. If you want to know more, I would advise to read 'The secret Life of Salvador Dalí'. Kind regards, Els

  • Joachim Friedrich Staab asked

    Can you please tell me which paintings of Salvador Dali where shown in your 2001 exhibition "In the Rough. Images of Nature through the ages in the collection of the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum"?
    Thank you, and warm regards,
    Dr. Joachim Friedrich Staab

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dear Joachim, according to the catalogue there was just one painting by Dalí exhibited: Couple with their Heads full of Clouds from 1936. Kind regards, Els

  • karin cyngiser asked

    Does shirly know the art?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dear Karin,
    It is not known whether Shirley Temple knew the artwork. There are no recorded public comments of her on the artwork.


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More information

Shirley Temple was a popular child star in the 1930s. In this fantasy image of the Hollywood starlet, Dalí has collaged her head, taken from a magazine, onto the body of a lion. He has transformed her into a modern sphinx, who devours her public.

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Collection book

Collection book Order


Title Shirley Temple, le plus jeune monstre sacré du cinéma de son temps
Material and technique Gouache, pastel and collage on cardboard
Object type
Painting > Painting > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Width 100 cm
Height 75 cm
Artists Artist: Salvador Dalí
Accession number 2751 (MK)
Credits Purchased 1969
Department Modern Art
Acquisition date 1969
Creation date in 1939
Entitled parties © Salvador Dalí, Fundación Gala-Salvador Dalí, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2022
Provenance Galerie André-François Petit, Paris; Claude Rivière, Paris; Joseph Foret, Paris; Nathalie Krebs; Jean Krebs
Exhibitions New York 1939; Tokyo 1964; Paris 1965; Charleroi 1968; Rotterdam 1968; Rotterdam 1970-71; Baden-Baden 1971; Barcelona/Madrid 1983; Charleroi 1985; Barcelona/Madrid/St Petersburg 2004-05; Rotterdam 2005a; London 2007b; Milan 2010-11; Rotterdam 2011; Rotterdam 2013-2014a; Rotterdam 2017b
Internal exhibitions Een prikkelcollectie (2000)
Een paraplu, een naaimachine en een ontleedtafel. Surrealisme à la Dalí in Rotterdam. (2013)
Collectie - surrealisme (2017)
External exhibitions IMAGINE! 100 Years of International Surrealism (2024)
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen @ Rijksmuseum (2023)
Fantastic Animals (2023)
Research Show research A dream collection - Surrealism in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Literature Rotterdam 1970, cat. no. 126; Chadwick 1994, pp. 24-25, fig. 15; Descharnes 1997, p. 252; Barcelona/Madrid/St Petersburg 2004-05, fig. 124, p. 93; Figueres 2004-present, cat. no. 509; Rotterdam/Barcelona/Madrid 2005, p. 134
Gouache > Drawing technique > Technique > Material and technique
Geographical origin Spain > Southern Europe > Europe

Entry catalogue A dream collection - Surrealism in Museum Boijmans Van beuningen

Author: Marijke Peyser

Salvador Dalí’s assemblage Shirley Temple, le plus jeune monstre sacré du cinéma de son temps portrays the American child film star Shirley Temple as a sphinx. A cut-out picture of her head was carefully placed on the body of this mythical monster, executed in pastel chalk and gouache. The sphinx, a winged lion with the head and upper body of a woman, was said to kill travellers if they could not solve the riddles it set them. Skulls, bones and the wreck of what was once a fine sailing ship surround the creature. Although death and destruction predominate, some of the figures in the background recall Dalí’s youth. In the distance, in the upper right corner, walks a minuscule man holding a child by the hand. It is probably a reference to the time when the artist felt safe with his father.[1] The girl with the skipping-rope upper left calls to mind Dalí’s cousin Carolinetta, who died young. He portrayed her in many of his works.[2] The bat above Shirley Temple’s head is an allusion to death, but may also relate to an incident in Dalí’s youth. The artist was around five years old when his cousin gave him a wounded bat. The care of the creature was not a success; soon Dalí saw that it was covered with ants. Out of pity he picked it up and instead of kissing it on the head – as he had intended – he bit it so powerfully that he tore it in half. Horrified he threw it in the sink and ran away.[3] Dalí had a life-long fear of bats.

The world of film permeated the artist’s life; his name is linked to no fewer than fifty cinematographic projects.[4] Although he worked on two Surrealist films with the Spanish filmmaker Louis Buñuel, they were both lovers of American movies starring Buster Keaton, Ben Turpin and Harry Langdon.[5] They disliked European art cinema, which was saturated with culture.[6] Dalí thought that ‘a film should be like a car, an aeroplane or a gramophone: intense, happy, pure, dynamic, sharp, funny, perfect’.[7] In his essay ‘A Short Critical History of Cinema’ (1932) Dalí placed the Marx Brothers film Animal Crackers (1930) at the top of the evolution of the film comedy.[8] It was Harpo Marx whom he praised most highly.[9] Dalí went to Hollywood in January 1937 at Marx’s invitation. While he was there he portrayed Marx on the basis of sketches he made during the filming of A Day at the Races (directed by Sam Wood, 1937) in which the actor played the role of Stuff. Two years later he portrayed Shirley Temple at the height of her popularity.



[1] Dalí used this motif many times in his oeuvre, see for example Impressions d’Afrique

(no. 23) or the much later Dalí enfant avec son père (1971).

[2] Including the monumental triptych Landscape with a Girl Skipping Rope (1936), no. 16.

[3] Dalí 1952, pp. 29-30.

[4] Paris 1979, pp. 342-53.

[5] In 1929 Dalí and Buñuel made Un chien andalou. In 1930 they worked together on L'Âge d’or.

[6] Rotterdam/Barcelona/Madrid 2005, p. 119.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Finkelstein 1998, p. 140.

[9] Venice/Philadelphia 2004-05, p. 283.

Show research A dream collection - Surrealism in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
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