Dali at the Theater – Les Yeux Fleuris

Auction Records: Stage Sets

Dali's 1944 “Oeil fleuri, oeil supérieur du premier portant gauche du décor de ballet Tristan fou," an 85 7/8 x 75¼ in. oil and tempera on joined canvas, was a backdrop used on the set of “Mad Tristan.” It sold at auction on 2 November 2011 for $266,500 (est. $200,000-$300,000).
Dali’s 1944 “Oeil fleuri, oeil supérieur du premier portant gauche du décor de ballet Tristan fou,” an 85 7/8 x 75¼ in. oil and tempera on joined canvas, was a backdrop used on the set of “Mad Tristan.” It sold at auction on 2 November 2011 for $266,500 (est. $200,000-$300,000).
“L'oeil fleuri (no. 8), décor pour le ballet Tristan fou” (1942-1944), oil and tempera on joined canvas, 67 x 71 in. – another piece of stage décor for “Mad Tristan” – sold at auction on 6 November 2013 for $389,000 ($200,000-$300,000).
“L’oeil fleuri (no. 8), décor pour le ballet Tristan fou” (1942-1944), oil and tempera on joined canvas, 67 x 71 in. – another piece of stage décor for “Mad Tristan” – sold at auction on 6 November 2013 for $389,000 ($200,000-$300,000).
An additional piece of décor used in Mad Tristan sold at auction on 13 May 2016 for $449,000 (est. $200,000-$300,000). “L'oeil fleuri (no. 6), décor pour le ballet Tristan fou” (c. 1944), oil and tempera on joined canvas, 58 ¼ x 58 ¼ in.
An additional piece of décor used in Mad Tristan sold at auction on 13 May 2016 for $449,000 (est. $200,000-$300,000). “L’oeil fleuri (no. 6), décor pour le ballet Tristan fou” (c. 1944), oil and tempera on joined canvas, 58 ¼ x 58 ¼ in.
The fully realized oil painting “Les Yeux Fleuris” (1944) brings together this repeated imagery into a complete surrealist composition. Created not for use on stage, but as an exploration of the theme on canvas, this 1944 painting by Salvador Dali presents the culmination of a favored motif from the production of “Mad Tristan.”

Center Stage

Salvador Dali’s oil on canvas, “Décor pour Roméo et Juliette” (1942), 11 x 18 ¼ in., is smaller than “Les Yeux Fleuris,” but was also created in relation to a stage production. Part of a series of designs that Dali produced for “Romeo and Juliet,” this painting presents several surrealist combinations of imagery in the same vein as the “flowering eyes” motif. Here, the bow of a ship becomes a crumbling building, and a figure-like clock tower bends in sorrow. This painting sold this fall at auction, on 19 November 2019, for $1,119,000 (est. $800,000-$1,200,000).
Salvador Dali’s oil on canvas, “Décor pour Roméo et Juliette” (1942), 11 x 18 ¼ in., is smaller than “Les Yeux Fleuris,” but was also created in relation to a stage production. Part of a series of designs that Dali produced for “Romeo and Juliet,” this painting presents several surrealist combinations of imagery in the same vein as the “flowering eyes” motif. Here, the bow of a ship becomes a crumbling building, and a figure-like clock tower bends in sorrow. This painting sold this fall at auction, on 19 November 2019, for $1,119,000 (est. $800,000-$1,200,000).

Storied History

The monumental stage curtain for “Mad Tristan” returned to the public eye in 2012 when it was used in a production of “La Verita” by the Switzerland-based Company Finzi Pasca. Dali designed the 29 x 48 foot stage curtain for the 1944 production of “Mad Tristan,” and since then, the piece had remained in a private collection. In this emotionally fraught scene, Dali captures the final moments from “Tristan and Isolde,” Wagner’s opera on which Dali’s ballet is based. “The First Paranoiac Ballet based on the Eternal Myth of Love and Death,” as Dali describes it in the ballet’s subtitle, presents a Tristan who is driven insane by his love for Isolde – who is transformed into a monster. Tristan is ultimately consumed by his beloved. The backdrop’s imagery incorporates many familiar motifs in Dali’s work: crutches protrude from the desolate landscape, ants crawl across the surface, and a dandelion sprouts from the neck of one figure. Essentializing these themes of love and destruction, Dali’s 1944 painting “Les Yeux Fleuris” displays a group of weeping eyes, gazing mournfully upward, and from their lashes spring delicate flowers.
The monumental stage curtain for “Mad Tristan” returned to the public eye in 2012 when it was used in a production of “La Verita” by the Switzerland-based Company Finzi Pasca. Dali designed the 29 x 48 foot stage curtain for the 1944 production of “Mad Tristan,” and since then, the piece had remained in a private collection. In this emotionally fraught scene, Dali captures the final moments from “Tristan and Isolde,” Wagner’s opera on which Dali’s ballet is based. “The First Paranoiac Ballet based on the Eternal Myth of Love and Death,” as Dali describes it in the ballet’s subtitle, presents a Tristan who is driven insane by his love for Isolde – who is transformed into a monster. Tristan is ultimately consumed by his beloved. The backdrop’s imagery incorporates many familiar motifs in Dali’s work: crutches protrude from the desolate landscape, ants crawl across the surface, and a dandelion sprouts from the neck of one figure. Essentializing these themes of love and destruction, Dali’s 1944 painting “Les Yeux Fleuris” displays a group of weeping eyes, gazing mournfully upward, and from their lashes spring delicate flowers.

Video

Watch video featuring Salvador Dali’s Les Yeux Fleuris.

In 1942 — a few months after his retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York — Salvador Dalí parlayed the idea of accumulated, or “flowering,” eyes into a grand oil and tempera painting for the set of his 1944 ballet Mad Tristan. In this painting from the same year, Les Yeux Fleuris, Dalí depicts three rows of four eyes with long lashes and a tear dropping on a brick wall backdrop. 

Its provenance traces to Marques Jorge de Cuevas, who also owned a similar painting by Dalí — the 15-foot-wide Yeux Fleuris, a 1931 tempera and oil on canvas that was used on the set for Mad Tristan. Eyes appear in Dalí paintings throughout his career — as late as the 1981 painting Argus, which has five eyes. Most notably, the eye appears in paintings Dalí made for the dream sequences of the film Spellbound starring Ingrid Bergman and directed by Alfred Hitchcock.