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Le visage de la guerre

Le visage de la guerre

Salvador Dalí (in 1940)

Ask anything

  • Maria Luisa asked

    Volevo sapere il significato dell'impronta della mano sula roccia secondo la critica e se, ad attorniare il volto, sono vermi o serpenti e il loro significato. Grazie

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dear Maria, Excuse me for not answering in Spanish. It is very difficult to give a fixed interpretation of Dalí's work, since he tried his best to create multi-layered works which carry multiple meanings. In this case the skull (symbol of death) and the serpents (symbols of evil) seem to refer to the horrors of war. In Spain, Dalí's home country, there had been a bloody civil war in the 1930's. In 1940, the year this painting was made, the Second World War began, bringing another burst of violence and evil. Kind regards, Els

  • Arianna asked

    Quando sarà nuovamente possibile visionare il dipinto al museo?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hi Arianna, this painting is not yet selected for our presentation of beloved works, but when enough people vote for it, it might come to the gallery in September. At the moment another painting by Dalí entitled 'Impressions d'Afrique', is shown. Kind regards, Els

  • Aimee Kelly asked

    Hi! I wanted to ask how much the museum bought the painting for in 1971.

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hi Aimee,

    I checked this for you, but unfortunately I cannot give you any exact numbers. I can tell you that the price is anything but comparable to what it would sell for today. The art marked looked very different in 1971...


  • Isaac asked

    Is it possible to see this artwork in the virtual tour?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hi Isaac, The artwork is temporarily, until January 21st 2023, displayed at the ARoS museum in Aarhus, Denmark. After this, it will return to Rotterdam and be stored in the depot.We do not have a virtual tour (yet), but I can tell you that the painting will play a role in our experimental project New Realities. Kind regards, Mara

  • christina asked

    What is the medium of this work

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dag Christina, het medium is olieverf op doek. Tip: je vindt de materialen op de objectpagina, onder 'specificaties'. Groeten, Lisa

  • Robert Walls asked

    What is the backstory or inspiration for this painting?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hi Robert, thanks for your question about this painting. It was made in 1940 at the start of World War II when Dalí lived in New York City. Because he made several sketches before hand we can see his thought proces before painting on canvas. For example, one of these sketches depicted an eye filled with a honeycomb and bees. It's worth to take a look at other paintings from this time to learn more about his inspiration. Best regards, Lisa


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More information


Title Le visage de la guerre
Material and technique Oil on canvas
Object type
Painting > Painting > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Width 79 cm
Height 64 cm
Artists Artist: Salvador Dalí
Accession number 2766 (MK)
Credits Purchased with funds from the estate of G.J. Verijssel, 1971
Department Modern Art
Acquisition date 1971
Creation date in 1940
Entitled parties © Salvador Dalí, Fundación Gala-Salvador Dalí, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2022
Provenance André Cauvin, Braine l’Alleud 1940-71
Exhibitions New York/Chicago/Los Angeles 1941; New York 1943; New York 1945b; Chicago 1949; Santa Barbara 1953; Rome 1954; Knokke Le Zoute 1956; Bordeaux 1957; Ghent 1964; Humlebaek/Brussels 1967; Charleroi 1968; Rotterdam 1968; Rotterdam 1970-71; Humlebaek 1973; Barcelona/Madrid 1983; Kobe 1987; Paris 1996-97; Madrid 1999-2000; Barcelona/Madrid/St Petersburg 2004-05; Rotterdam 2005a; Milan 2010-11; Paris/Madrid 2012-13; Madrid 2013; Rotterdam 2013-14a; Rotterdam 2017b
Internal exhibitions Een prikkelcollectie (2000)
Een paraplu, een naaimachine en een ontleedtafel. Surrealisme à la Dalí in Rotterdam. (2013)
De collectie als tijdmachine (2017)
Collectie - surrealisme (2017)
External exhibitions Dalí (2012)
Dalí - All of the poetic suggestions and all of the plastic possibilities (2013)
Dal nulla al sogno (2018)
Surrealist Art - Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (2021)
Dalì & Magritte (2019)
Dalí, Magritte, Man Ray and Surrealism. Highlights from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (2023)
A Surreal Shock – Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (2021)
Only the Marvelous is Beautiful (2022)
A Surreal Shock. Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (2023)
Research Show research A dream collection - Surrealism in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Literature Dalí 1942, p. XIV; Rotterdam 1970, cat. no. 70; Ades 1982, p. 113; Descharnes/Néret 1994, p. 336; Radford 1997, pp. 212-15, fig. 137; Descharnes 1997, p. 253; Barcelona/Madrid/St Petersburg 2004-05, fig. 108, p. 101; Figueres 2004-present, cat. no. 499; Rotterdam/Barcelona/Madrid 2005, p. 151; Milan 2010-11, pp. 90-91; Paris/Madrid 2012-13, pp. 244-45
Geographical origin Spain > Southern Europe > Europe

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

Author: Marijke Peyser

In his Metamorphoses, the Roman poet Ovid recounted the myth of Perseus, the son of Danaë and Zeus, the ruler of the gods. He was ordered to kill Medusa, one of the three terrifying Gorgons. Medusa’s wild eyes, tusks, protruding tongue and snakes instead of hair made her face so hideous that anyone who looked at her was turned to stone. By using his shield as a mirror Perseus managed to behead her, but her head maintained its petrifying power even after her death.[1] In 1940 Salvador Dalí depicted the horrors of the Second World War in the painting Le visage de la guerre with this image in mind.

During a lengthy stay in Rome with Lord Gerald Berners, a good friend of his patron Edward James, Dalí wrote a letter dated 21 March 1938 to his confidential advisor Prince Jean-Louis de Faucigny-Lucinge. Shortly before that, on the twelfth of March, German troops had marched into Austria. The Anschluss of Austria with the Third Reich was the first move towards the Second World War. In his writings Dalí expressed his feelings as follows: ‘One evening at sunset (very fiery and red) … in the Forum I met a ‘Margulies’, which is as we know an Austrian bird with feathers that lives in the mountains; his arms and legs were cut off, he was wearing a very flashy tie; his eyes were filled with tears when he looked at me; but I also saw a display of a will to triumph at all costs (of course I pretended that I didn’t know him).’[2]

When the war broke out on 1 September 1939, Dalí and his lover Gala wanted to leave their home in Paris as quickly as possible. They went to live not far from Bordeaux, in the seaside town of Arcachon.[3] German troops marched into Paris on 14 June 1940, and it was not long before the war reached Bordeaux: Arcachon was no longer safe. The interior designer Jean-Michel Frank managed to persuade Dalí and Gala to flee to the United States. In the summer of 1940 Gala went to Lisbon to arrange their passage. Dalí travelled through Northern Spain to say goodbye to his family.[4] The devastation that he saw there made a deep impression on him.[5] When Dalí arrived in Port Lligat, he found his house completely ransacked and daubed with fascist slogans.[6] Not much later, in mid-July, he reached Lisbon. In his autobiography he described the atmosphere in the Portuguese capital, where thousands of refugees were trying to obtain documents that would enable them to escape the war: ‘The last act of the European drama was being performed in Lisbon. A forlorn drama, without fuss, which was played out in packed hotels, shared dormitories and ended in toilets where people had to go and stand in the queue before they could open a vein.’[7] Dalí and Gala crossed the Atlantic on board the SS Excambion. They arrived in New York on 16 August 1940.[8] It was not until eight years later that their exile came to an end and they returned to Europe.



[1] Hall 1992, p. 276.

[2] Peyser-Verhaar 2008, p. 291. Unpublished letter dated 21 March1938, from Dalí to Prince Jean-Louis de Faucigny-Lucinge, Z. de Ravenel Archives. The figure that Dalí described is the personification of the arms of Austria: an eagle with a red and white crosspiece on its breast.

[3] Ibid., p. 297, unpublished letter (autumn 1939) from Gala to Prince Jean-Louis de Faucigny-Lucinge, Z. de Ravenel Archives: ‘After the start of the war we were plunged into the slightly melancholy peace and quiet of Arcachon.’

[4] Ibid., p. 299.

[5] Dalí 1952, p. 422.

[6] Ibid., p. 425.

[7] Ibid., p. 427.

[8] Secrest 1986, p. 179.

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