Metamorphosis of Narcissus
|Type||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||51.2 cm × 78.1 cm (20.12 in × 30 3⁄4 in)|
|Location||Tate Modern, London|
|Dali's Metamorphosis of Narcissus, Smarthistory|
Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937) is an oil-on-canvas painting by the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí. This painting is from Dalí's Paranoiac-critical period. According to Greek mythology, Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection in a pool. Unable to embrace the watery image, he pined away, and the gods immortalized him as a flower. Dalí completed this painting in 1937 on his long awaited return to Paris after having had great success in the United States.
The painting shows Narcissus sitting in a pool, gazing down. Not far away there is a decaying stone figure which corresponds closely to him but is perceived quite differently; as a hand holding up a bulb or egg from which a Narcissus is growing. The egg has been used as a symbol for sexuality in other paintings by Dalí. In the background, a group of naked figures can be seen, while a third Narcissus like figure appears on the horizon.
Dalí wrote a poem to accompany the painting.
Dalí's poem, below, accompanied the painting when it was initially exhibited:
Under the split in the retreating black cloud
the invisible scale of spring
in the fresh April sky.
On the highest mountain,
the god of the snow,
his dazzling head bent over the dizzy space of reflections,
starts melting with desire
in the vertical cataracts of the thaw
annihilating himself loudly among the excremental cries of minerals,
between [sic] the silences of mosses
towards the distant mirror of the lake
the veils of winter having disappeared,
he has newly discovered
the lightning flash
of his faithful image.
It seems that with the loss of his divinity the whole high plateau
pours itself out,
crashes and crumbles
among the solitude and the incurable silence of iron oxides
while its dead weight
raises the entire swarming and apotheosic
plateau from the plain
from which already thrust towards the sky
the artesian fountains of grass
and from which rise,
the innumerable floral spears
of the deafening armies of the germination of the narcissi.
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- Meredith Etherington-Smith, The Persistence of Memory: A Biography of Dalí, New York 1993, p.222.