Dali’s 45th Secret

February 16th, 2008

Four drawings by Salvador Dali from his 1948 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship.


Isocahedron, p109.

“Know at once that among the most inexplicable secrets of nature and of creation is that which rules that the number of five governs the animal and vegetable world, that is to say, the organic world, but that on the other hand never, never does this number of five occur in the mineral or inorganic world. So that if the pentagon must become for you the archetypal figure, since in your painting you must express without discontinuity only the quintessence of the organic, the hexagon on the contrary must be considered by you the prototype of your antitype, as well as all its derived crystallizations which are the inorganic ones of the mineral realm.

“You have thus just understood, in learning this, the profound reason of what your painter’s intuition had so surely revealed to you when you confessed to me that you had always detested without knowing why the decorative charm of crystallizations, and especially the congealed, blind, additioned and arithmetical ones of snow. If you do not like them, and are so right in not liking them, it is because your art of painting is exactly the contrary of decorative art, since it is — as you now know — a cognitive art” (p168-9).

sea urchin

Sea urchin, p174.

“I shall… enlighten you without wasting a moment as to Secret Number 45, which concerns the aesthetic virtues of… the sea urchin, in which all the magic splendors and virtues of pentagonal geometry are found resolved, a creature weighted with royal gravity and which does not even need a crown for, being a drop held in perfect balance by the surface tension of its liquid, it is world, cupola and crown at one and the same time, hence universe!

“Bow your head, now, toward the depths of those other celestial abysses of the white calms of the Mediterranean Sea and pull out a sea urchin and accustom yourself to considering the entire universe through the geometric quintessence of its teeth, which form a kind of cosmogonic and pentagonal flower in its lower orifice where is lodged its chewing apparatus, called ‘Aristotle’s lantern’… Painter, take my advice: keep even beside your easel or somewhere close to your work a sea urchin’s skeleton, so that its little weight may serve by its sole presence in your meditations, just as the weight of a human skull attends at every moment those of saints and anchorites. For the latter, since they lived constantly in their ecstasies and celestial ravishments, required the presence of the skull which, like the ballast, held them to their earthly and human condition; while you, painter, live only in those other ecstasies and ravishments which are given to you, on the contrary, by matter and its viscosity. And you will need that blue-tinged skeleton of the sea urchin which, by its lack of weight, will constantly remind you of the celestial regions which the sensuality of your oils and your media might so easily cause you to forget. Thus the mystic who lives only in the celestial paradise bears in his hand a terrestrial skeleton: the skull of man; while the painter who is an Epicurean — for even if he is often a Stoic in his work, he never ceases to live in terrestrial paradises — must bear in his hand the sea urchin, which is like the very skeleton of heaven” (p175-6).

painter and saint

Painter and saint, p174.

“For remember once more that the painter’s head has already been adequately compared, successively and in each of these four chapters to an oil lamp which gives light, to the hump of a ruminant whose mouth is like the eye of a lamp which gives light, to a Bernard hermit who lives within the shell of your skull, and whose red teeth are the arms of the painter which, like a flame of light, also illuminate the picture. And now to give you even more pleasure, I shall without more ado compare this same painter’s head, not to a Bernard the hermit but to a miller who is also, like yourself, a kind of hermit who ruminates and masticates and grinds in the mill of his brain which is the storehouse and attic of reserve images of the camel’s hump; in which the grain of intelligence lies piled, that luminous quintessence, that flow of wheat which is the whiteness of the earth with which you are to knead that daily bread of painting, which thus becomes again the prayer which the painter, with his flour which is the terrestrial luminosity of this world below, daily lifts toward the celestial luminosities of the above. For all the mystery and miraculous humble aspiration of the man painter is nothing less than to make light, radiant and divine, with white and earth colors which are dull and sere” (p150).

young and adult sea urchin

Young and adult sea urchin, p108.

8 Responses to “Dali’s 45th Secret”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    gr8, thx very much. last time i saw this great SD live last year in prague gallery.

  2. Greg Pass Says:

    Thanks for stopping by.

    BTW, I see from your site that you’re interested in Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica. I posted a brief excerpt last year, and later this year I’ll post a fuller treatment.

  3. Stephen Fitz-Gerald Says:

    Dali’s little workbook is a jewel.
    No matter how eccentric one may consider him,he was absolutely brilliant in the depth of his knowledge to make his art.
    I too have found great traction in the urchins form,and as I am a sculptor not a painter,I always translate into 3 dimensions:
    He has a little cartoon of Sacred Geometry Calipers on page 179 which when I saw it struck me like a lightning bolt. I had seen a Renaissance sketch of the device in a museum in Europe in 1969 but never knew what it was for. Here now was the explanation I’d waited 34 years for. I now manufacture the tool and routinely use it as an adjunct to beauty in my decorative arts and constructions:

  4. J.I.S.saint Ignatius Says:

    It seems to me that the artist isonly the artist, when he/she can paint what they have int heir subconscious. And to be able to reliquinsh the evils of their souls, in order to fly highert han needed to fly with your imagination.

  5. J.I.S.saint Ignatius Says:

    what people do not realize that because of dali, i am able to do something that is uncommon to the people who work in 3 dimensions. I am about to place another plateau on the world of art. I believe it is time that we had a higher form of sophistication. It is time that the fourth dimension takes its roots. I have found a way to make this happen. The revolution starts.

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