Body of Salvador Dalí to be dug up for DNA testing

A Spanish court has ordered the exhumation of the body of Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí to facilitate a paternity test.

Fortune teller and tarot card reader Maria Pilar Abel Martínez lodged a paternity claim in 2015 against the Spanish state and the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation to which the artist left his estate upon his death in 1989. Born in 1965, Martinez insists she is the product of a clandestine affair, which took place between the artist and her mother Antonia in 1955.

At the time, Dalí was married to his muse Gala, née Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, with whom he had no children. Antonia worked for a family in Cadaqués, a fishing village close to where Dalí had a holiday home. Martinez says her mother referred to Dalí as her father on several occasions and that her physical resemblance to the artist is so striking “the only thing [she is] missing is a moustache”.

In 2007, Martinez undertook two paternity tests after obtaining permission from the courts. The results of the first test, which used traces of hair and skin from Dalí’s death mask were inconclusive. She claims she never received results for the second test, which was based on material provided by Dalí’s biographer and friend, Robert Descharnes.

In the latest ruling, the Madrid judge ordered Dalí’s body to be exhumed to obtain DNA samples in the absence of any further personal objects or biological remains of the artist, which might be used for testing. The exhumation could take place as early as July according to Martinez’s lawyer.

If the planned test returns a positive result Martinez could legally request a quarter share of Dalí’s estate under Spanish law. The Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation has said it plans to lodge an appeal against the court ruling to exhume Dalí’s body “in the coming days”.

Dalí was buried in Figueres, north-eastern Catalonia, in a crypt under the stage of an old theatre he developed into a museum to his “own genius”.

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