Remorse, or Sphinx Embedded in the Sand

Salvador Dalí

Spain (1904 - 1989)
Remorse, or Sphinx Embedded in the Sand, 1931
oil on canvas
19.1 x 26.7 cm
Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University, Gift of John F. Wolfram, 61.8
© Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí/ SODRAC (2014)

The Sphinx is a creature of both Egyptian and Greek mythology. For the Egyptians, the Sphinx combined the body of a lion with the head of a man, hawk, ram, or falcon. In Ancient Greece, the Sphinx was a women endowed with the body and claws of a lion, the tail of a serpent, and the wings of an eagle. In this painting, however, Dalí presents us with a third version of the monster. According to his own writing, Dalí’s Sphinx is endowed with only two of his “most active fetishes” - a shoe and a glass of warm milk. These unlikely objects are tucked under the skin of the woman’s back, as she strikes the traditional pose denoting grief. Dalí may have intended his remorseful Sphinx to represent his wife Gala’s sense of loss at her infertility. The long shadow cast by the Sphinx leads the eye to cliffs that look very similar to those found on Cap de Norfeu near Cadaqués, Spain. Dalí spent childhood summers there and the rocky landscape would be the backdrop for many of his Surrealist canvases in the 1930s. This was also where he first met Gala. The painting is signed “Olive Salvador Dalí," the name “Olive” being one that Dalí used occasionally for Gala on account of her skin colour.