Last night, the body of Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí was exhumed from his tomb inside the Salvador Dalí Theater-Museum in Figueres, Spain, so that DNA could be collected to carry out a paternity test. The process began at 8pm, by 10:20pm his coffin had been raised and opened, and his body was back at rest in its crypt by 9am today, when the museum reopened.
While we must now await the result of the paternity test that was the impetus for the exhuming — to see if tarot card reader Maria Pilar Abel Martínez is indeed the artist’s heir and therefore entitled to a share of his very valuable estate — one surprising fact came to light the moment his casket was opened: The shape and position of Dalí’s mustache has not changed since he was buried 28 years ago.
“The mustache kept its classic 10-past-10 position,” said Lluís Peñuelas, the secretary general of the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, which runs the museum, according to the New York Times. “Finding this out was a very emotional moment.”
It was especially emotional for Narcís Bardalet, the embalmer who prepared Dalí’s body in 1989 and was on-hand for last night’s surreal procedure, describing the persistence of the waxy mustache as “a miracle.” He told the Guardian that Dalí’s body had become so dry and hard that examiners had to use an electric saw to collect a bone sample. Bardalet added: “Salvador Dalí is forever.”
Ahead of the procedure, tents and awnings were erected inside the museum’s glass-roofed atrium to prevent anyone from using a drone to capture images or footage of the exhuming.
Despite complying with the court order to have Dalí’s body exhumed, the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation “considers the exhumation performed on Salvador Dalí’s remains entirely inappropriate,” according to a statement released today. “There is no evidence that claimant Pilar Abel Martínez’s claim has any legal basis, as the only grounds provided constitute a notarial statement from a woman who claims to be a friend of the mother, stating that the latter told her that her daughter’s father was Salvador Dalí.”
Under the terms of Spanish law, Martínez would be entitled to a quarter of Dalí’s estate if the DNA test supports her claim.