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.