Call it a second coming: a wax Christ figure by Salvador Dalí, long believed to be lost, has returned to art enthusiasts.
The sculpture was discovered by a commercial gallery in Hawaii and put on display today, the anniversary of the Surrealist’s 118th birthday.
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The work, called Lost Wax, was found in the private collection of a U.S. collector, according to Harte International Galleries in Maui. Remarkably, it was still in the original Plexiglas box that Dalí had used to preserve its form.
The wax sculpture was created in 1979 and served as the model for bronze, gold, platinum, and silver editions of the bas-relief sculptures of Dalí’s Christ of St. John of the Cross. The series is a three-dimensional translation of a 1951 painting by the artist of the same name, which imagines Jesus on the cross floating through the twilight sky. Given the challenges of preserving wax, few expected the original mold to have survived.
In fact, it had been sitting in the unnamed collector’s vault for four decades. Harte’s co-owners, Glenn and Devon Harte, had contacted the collector to purchase an art book from him. The pair realized he owned the rare original Dalí and acquired it for an undisclosed sum.
“Harte International Galleries has sold a number of the ‘Christ of St. John of the Cross’ bas-relief sculptures throughout our history, but no one thought the original work—done by Dalí in wax—still existed,” Glenn Harte said in a statement.
The gallery worked with Dalí scholar Nicolas Descharnes to authentic the sculpture. Descharnes, the son of Robert Descharnes, who served as Salvador Dalí’s secretary, is one of the world’s foremost scholars on the artist. In 2019, he notably authenticated a previously unknown painting Dalí from 1932, which had been housed in a private collection for more than 75 years. In the case of Lost Wax, he collaborated with the iconographic expert Carlos Evaristo to confirm its authenticity.
The sculpture has now been valued by the gallery at $10 million to $20 million, a staggering sum for a wax cast. It is on display in the gallery.