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Salvador Dalí's Body Ordered Exhumed In Paternity Suit

A Spanish judge has ordered that the body of Salvador Dalí be exhumed after a 61-year-old woman claimed the celebrated surrealist is her father.
Guy Gillette
Getty Images/Science Source
A Spanish judge has ordered that the body of Salvador Dalí be exhumed after a 61-year-old woman claimed the celebrated surrealist is her father.

In a surreal turn, a judge in Madrid ordered that Salvador Dalí's body — interred for nearly three decades — be exhumed after a 61-year-old Spanish woman claimed the renowned painter was her father.

María Pilar Abel Martínez, born in 1956 in Girona, said her mother, Antonia, had a secret affair with the mustachioed surrealist while working as a maid for a neighboring family on Spain's northeast coast, reports the BBC.

Abel said her mother told her several times that Dalí was her father.

On Monday the judge ruled said that because no biological remains or personal objects are around to determine paternity, DNA tests on Dalí's bones are necessary to settle the paternity suit.

The state-run Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation manages the estate and said it will appeal the ruling in the coming days, reports Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

NPR's Lauren Frayer reports from Madrid, that Abel is "working as a tarot card reader — and claims to resemble Dalí: 'The only thing missing is the moustache,' she says."

El Mundo reports that Abel already underwent DNA tests in 2007 and 2008, using retained specimens from Dalí's body, but she said she was never given the results. This, Abel said, showed that the results must have been positive.

If paternity is confirmed, Abel could be entitled to up to 25 percent of Dalí's work and property, according to The Associated Press.

At the time of Dalí's supposed affair with Abel's mother, he was married to his muse Gala, born Helena Deluvina Diakonoff, according to The Gala Dalí Foundation.

The Salvador Dalí Museum says that by 1953 Gala and Dalí were distancing themselves from one another even though by 1958 they had officially wed.

They never had children.

Dalí is perhaps the best-known artist from the 20th Century's surrealist movement. His most celebrated painting, "The Persistance of Memory," depicts clocks melting on a beach.

Dalí died in Figueres in 1989 at the age of 85. He is buried in a crypt there at a theater and museum he designed himself.

Abel's lawyer tells El Mundo that no date has been set for the exhumation, but that it could happen as soon as next month.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Amy Held is an editor on the newscast unit. She regularly reports breaking news on air and online.

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