Almost 28 years after the celebrated surrealist painter Salvador Dalí died, a 60-year-old Spanish woman has succeeded in winning a judicial order to have his body exhumed for DNA extraction so that she can know whether she is his daughter. Dalí died in 1989 at 85 and was previously thought to be childless — even largely celibate — although Pilar Abel, a tarot card reader, has been claiming since 2007 that her mother told her at a young age of a short-lived and clandestine affair with the artist in the mid-1950s. She says her grandmother knew of the affair and would tell her that she was “strange, like your father”.
Dalí's cryptic, enchanting work was ultimately worth hundreds of millions of dollars put together, and he bequeathed it all to the Spanish state upon his death. Abel, a divorced mother of four, has said her main goal is to establish paternity, but after filing a lawsuit in 2015, she told the New York Times that she was also seeking “whatever corresponds to me”. Abel has worked as a tarot card reader for decades, sometimes appearing on television, but she also told the Times that she did not read her own cards, by principle, and that exhumation was necessary to confirm her lineage once and for all.
Dalí is buried under the theater in his Catalonian home town of Figueres, which was converted into a museum for his work and is one of the region's biggest tourist attractions. In life, Dalí was known to be deeply eccentric, as was his wife, Gala. For much of their marriage they lived separately, with Gala residing in a medieval castle in a small village and Dalí allowed to visit only upon her written invitation. A fire in the castle in 1984, two years after Gala's death, almost killed Dalí. One of his assistant, Robert Descharnes, pulled him out of the smoldering building. Dalí was hospitalized and fed by nasal tubes. In 2007, Abel contacted Descharnes, who still was in possession of some of the nasal tubes. He agreed to submit them for a DNA test, but the results were inconclusive.