Salvador Dalí The Little Theater 1934

  • MoMA, Floor 5, 517 The Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Galleries

This illuminated, diorama-like construction contains eleven parallel painted-glass panels. Both pictorial illusion and actual depth produce the sense of receding space, from the proscenium arch on the front panel to the sky on the furthest, with various bizarre objects, figures, and scenarios sandwiched in-between. This unusual work may have been Dalí’s attempt to recreate “a large square box” he had seen as a boy: “It was a kind of optical theater, which provided me with the greatest measure of illusion of my childhood. I have never been able to determine or reconstruct in my mind exactly what it was like.”

Gallery label from 2019
Additional text

This sculpture—part theatrical maquette, part multi-layered painting—is composed of eleven painted glass panes that juxtapose several distinct and peculiar worlds. At the margins the proscenium arch, receding stage floor, and inkwell evoke the stage and an unseen playwright, highlighting the orchestrated, artificial character of painting. Behind these Dalí contrasts an idyllic Arcadian scene with a barren, ruined landscape. Dalí's unique construction was inspired by his longstanding fascination with optical devices and with the theater.

Gallery label from 2006.
Wood and glass, painted
12 3/4 x 16 3/4 x 12 1/4" (32.3 x 42.5 x 31.1 cm)
Acquired through the James Thrall Soby Bequest, and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, Loula D. Lasker, and William S. Paley Funds
Object number
© 2024 Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

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Provenance Research Project

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

[Galerie François Petit (André François Petit), Paris]
Emilio Terry, Paris.
? - 1974, Mme. [Emmy] de Martelaere, Paris.
1974 - 1981, Perls Galleries (stock no. 11471, photo no. P7655), New York, purchased from Mme. de Martelaere, Paris.
1981, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, purchased from Perls Galleries.

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