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Salvador Dalí, Study for the Sacrament of the Last Supper, 1954-55. Courtesy Jean-Pierre Isbouts.

A Previously Unknown Salvador Dalí Drawing Reveals the Surprising Methods Behind One of the Artist’s Most Famous Paintings

An unpublished Salvador Dalí drawing is giving new insight into one of the Surrealist’s most famous paintings, The Sacrament of the Last Supper (1955), which is housed in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Collector Christopher Heath Brown, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, owns the drawing and has collaborated with art historian Jean-Pierre Isbouts, a professor at California’s Fielding Graduate University, to publish a book this spring with their research on the work, reports the Guardian.

The drawing is surprisingly exacting for Dalí, and even conventional in its compositional style. The work, along with two other unpublished drawings from the series, “reveal Dalí as a meticulous artist, contradicting his image as an exuberant surrealist who just paints whatever comes into his mind,” Isbouts tells the Guardian. “He was very deliberate in his art.”

Salvador Dalí, Study for the Sacrament of the Last Supper, 1954-55. Courtesy Jean-Pierre Isbouts.

Salvador Dalí, Study for the Sacrament of the Last Supper, 1954-55. Courtesy Jean-Pierre Isbouts.

The drawing is a preparatory sketch for Dalí’s painting, and Isbouts describes it as an almost exact copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s rendition of the . “He even has a three-dimensional top-down view to see what that would look like,” Isbouts tells the Guardian. “Sketches at the bottom of this study reveal Dalí’s mind at work as he looked for variations on the scene.”

Nearly nine feet wide and over five feet high, the painting doesn’t have the shock value of the artist’s earlier work, though there are surreal elements present. Christ’s body is partly transparent, and there is a ghostly torso looming above Jesus, its arms outspread, recalling a crucified figure. It also shows two apostles on the near side of the table with their backs to us, departing from the typical view, which has them all facing the picture plane.

Kirkus calls the duo’s book, titled The Dalí Legacy: How an Eccentric Genius Changed the Art World and Created a Lasting Legacy (Apollo), “a bright, accessible biography that connects the dots between Salvador Dalí’s surrealist masterpieces and their visual references.”


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