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Hallie Ford Museum of Art Exhibits

Immortality

Immortality, Dali

Immortality does not mimic a particular alchemical symbol, but instead represents the effects of the Elixir of Life, or the Philosopher's Stone-the goal of alchemy. The Elixir can transmute all metals into gold, cure all disease, resurrect the dead, and guarantee immortality. This portrait-like image can be interpreted as the representation of a successful alchemist, one who has attained immortality. According to alchemical legend, once the successful alchemist is tranformed by the Elixir/Stone, the unconscious aspect of his psyche will be illuminated by consciousness.  

The composition of Immortality is one of the most static in Alchimie des Philosophes. Dalí presents the figure as a conventional chest-length portrait. The figure is angrogynous, wearing unisex clothing and lacking any identifiable features which adds to the anonymity of the print. Instead of a face, the figure has a pear-cut jewel with different forms in each facet. The center facet features another androgynous head, whose face is replaced by a swirling pathway on which travelers (alchemical pilgrims) stand facing a sphinx. In the center of the face/path is a cracking egg. The egg is both an alchemical and dalinian symbol and was certain to appear in some detail of Alchimie des Philosophes. In terms of Dalí's symbolism, the egg represents rebirth and resurrection, which is similar to the alchemical meaning as well. Alchemically, the egg represents rebirth and the creation of the Philosopher's Stone. The other facets of the main figure's face include two classical portraits in profile, one of which has a green gem as an eye. At the top of the face/jewel is an angel. Although the work is static, Dalí conveys eternity and the passage of time through the swirl within the figure's face. 

Excerpts from the alchemical texts in Alchimie des Philosophes: 

 “By consuming these two substances we can refine our bodies such that we neither grow old nor die.” -The Elixir of Immortality

“Though a man whom you deem unworthy may offer you jewels piled mountain-high, do not divulge the Method.” -The Elixir of Immorality

“In studying immortality, it is of the utmost importance to realize that the sexual act is a dangerous event; why wear yourself out, you will cause your vital spirits to weep!” -Concerning the Yin and the Yang