In 1931 Dalí described Surrealist sculpture as "absolutely useless and created wholly for the purpose of materializing in a fetishistic way, with maximum tangible reality, ideas and fantasies of a delirious character." Made just a few years after this provocative statement, Retrospective Bust of a Woman not only presents a woman as an object, but explicitly as one to be consumed. A long phallic baguette crowns her head, cobs of corns dangle around her neck, and ants swarm along her forehead as if gathering crumbs. When this work was exhibited in 1933, Pablo Picasso's dog is reputed to have eaten the original loaf of bread.
Gallery label from The Erotic Object: Surrealist Sculpture from the Collection, June 24, 2009–January 4, 2010.
Like other Surrealists, Dalí constructed sculpture from disparate found objects. The genesis of this work was his discovery of an inkwell featuring the figures from Jean-Francois Millet's painting The Angelus (1857–59). He embedded the inkwell in a loaf of bread and placed them both on an accessorized bust. The necklace is a strip of repeating images from a zoetrope, a precinematic toy that provides the illusion of movement as it rotates.
Gallery label from Dalí: Painting and Film, June 29–September 15, 2008 .