The Biblia Sacra by Salvador Dalí: Painting with Bulletism
Author: Rachele Paradiso
It is 1950, and Salvador Dalí is at the apex of his success; the master of Surrealism has just become famous and, after eight years spent with Gala in the USA, he decides to go back to Europe. Like many of the artists who refuged in the USA during WWII, also Dalí and Gala went back to the old continent after a long American period, when he reached fame and notoriety on a global level. The first European waypoint for Dalí and Gala was Italy, the birthplace of classicism and Renaissance. The artist, who in these years recovered tradition and form, felt particularly attracted to Italy. In 1948, the first solo show of the artist is hosted by the Obelisco Gallery in Rome. The new shift in the master’s painting style focused on radically different subjects: classical, mythological, or Christian, the new subjects were re-interpreted through scientific concepts. From the 50s, a new magnificent phase for the master of Surrealism began: the period that was defined historically “nuclear mystic”. In the meanwhile, the market requested more and more insistently the artist’s works. The main graphic works of the master belong to these years and to the next decade. Between 1967 and 1969, Dalí realized a monumental piece: 105 works divided into five volumes. This is the Biblia Sacra, published by Rizzoli-Mediolani, Milan.
The oeuvre comprises 105 lithographic prints from as many watercolors. Three different editions of the series Biblia Sacra have been published: the first, the most valuable, was made in 99 copies “ad personam”; the lithographs were printed on pure rag paper, decorated with details in gold and signed by the artist. The sheets were bound in volumes covered in green Morocco skin. The second edition, the “magnus luxus”, was made in 199 copies, numbered from I to CXCIX, printed on pure rag paper, contained in volumes covered in green skin. The third edition, “luxus”, was made in 1499 copies, numbered from 1 to 1499, and printed on a special rag paper; each of them has the original stamp of the artist, as well as the signature and date on plate. The sheets were bound in volumes, realized in natural-colored goatskin.
In 1963, Giuseppe Albaretto, a faithful and devout man who became patron and protector of Dalí during his Italian stay, commissioned to Dalí some series of graphic works, such as, obviously, the Biblia Sacra. Albaretto and his wife Mara, from a Milanese high-bourgeois family, soon became the main mediators and buyers of Dalí’s artworks in Italy. Through the commission of these works to Dalí, Albaretto thought he could make the artist reconcile with religion and, in more general terms, with the spiritual world. As a matter of fact, the watercolors of Biblia Sacra represent the most significant episodes of the Old and New Testament Christian tradition. The technique used by the artist for these works is really surprising: through a harquebus, an ancient portable fire-weapon, the artist shot color directly on the paper sheet, with an outstanding chromatic effect, movement, and dynamism. The religious figures are characterized by extremely vivid colors, whilst the lithographs are accompanied by a piece of Japan paper on which the verse of the corresponding episode is printed.