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Tête otorhinologique de Vénus

Tête otorhinologique de Vénus

Salvador Dalí (in 1964 (1970))

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By swapping the positions of the nose and ear on this plaster cast of a classical bust of the goddess Venus, Dalí has made the impossible possible and has created a highly personal surrealist work. This is a reconstruction of the original sculpture from 1964 made by the museum with the artist's permission in 1970, the year of the major Dalí exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

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Collection book

Collection book Order


Title Tête otorhinologique de Vénus
Material and technique Plaster
Object type
Sculpture > Three-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Width 54 cm
Height 70.5 cm
Depth 41 cm
Artists Kunstenaar: Salvador Dalí
Accession number BEK 1466 (MK)
Credits Aankoop / Purchase: 1970
Department Modern Art
Acquisition date 1970
Age artist About 60 years old
Exhibitions The Collection Enriched (2011)
Een paraplu, een naaimachine en een ontleedtafel. Surrealisme à la Dalí in Rotterdam. (2013)
Het voorbeeld van de klassieken (1984)
Collectie - surrealisme (2017)
External exhibitions Dal nulla al sogno (2018)
Research Digitising Contemporary Art
Geographical origin Spain > Southern Europe > Europe

Please note: The metadata of this object have not been checked.
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Author: Marijke Peyser

The title of the sculpture Tête otorhinologique de Vénus conflates the Greek words ‘ous’ and ‘otos’ which mean ‘ear’ followed by ‘rhis’ and ‘rhinos’ which mean ‘nose’. The parts of the body that make hearing and smell possible can easily be recognized, although they are in unusual places. Like his sculpture Vénus de Milo aux tiroirs, this bust of Venus underwent a metamorphosis, turning the traditional idea of beauty on its head. The inspiration for making these unusual busts of Venus may have been the experimental photograph the photographer Victor Obsatz took of Marcel Duchamp in 1953. In 1953 Obsatz superimposed two different portrait photographs of the Frenchman – one in profile and one full face – so that the left ear and the nose swapped places.[1]

The ear had a special significance for Dalí. The artist was familiar with Gargantua (1534) by the French author François Rabelais. This book opens with a parody on the birth of the gods. Like Neptune’s child, nine months in the womb was not long enough for Gargantua and he only came into the world after eleven months. He chose his mother’s left ear as the birth canal instead of her uterus. In Dalí’s studio there was a giant plaster model of the human ear complete with the auditory duct.[2] When the artist found a small mole on Gala’s earlobe in 1957 he was ecstatic.[3] He also used the ear as a source of inspiration in paintings, such as Madonna (1958), also called Ear with Madonna, in which Dalí combined a Madonna and Child based on Raphael’s Sistine Madonna (after 1513) with a huge ear.

In the years after 1945 Dalí was open to the experimental techniques and innovations of a new generation of artists. Pop Art, Photorealism, Divisionism, Abstract-Expressionism, Stereoscopy and Holography made their debuts in his post-war oeuvre. Meanwhile, Dalí tried to equal the painterly precision of works by old masters. At the same time he was fascinated the recent discoveries in modern sciences. His aim was to achieve unity between the world of science and other areas of human knowledge in his art. In an interview he explained: ‘The progress of the sciences has been colossal. But from the spiritual point of view, we live in the lowest period of civilization. A divorce has come about between physics and metaphysics. We are living through an almost monstrous progress of specialization, without any synthesis.’[4]



[1] Stuttgart/Zurich 1989, p. 377.

[2] Ibid., p. 348. We do not know when this plaster model was in his studio.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ades 1995, p. 173.

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