Humans have a tendency to throw the word “miracle” around casually at times, but that’s the term embalmer Narcís Bardalet used to describe finding Salvador Dalí’s famous mustache intact after the late artist’s exhumation yesterday.
Forensics experts removed the body from its tomb beneath the Salvador Dalí museum in Figueres, Spain, at 10:20 PM local time. If you haven’t followed the drama of Dalí’s rise from the grave, a last month Madrid court ordered the exhumation to satisfy a paternity suit that 61-year-old tarot card reader Pilar Abel levied against the Spanish government. Her mother led her to believe that Dalí was her father from a young age. A 2007 test based on skin and hair from his death mask was inconclusive, so last month a Madrid court ordered Dalí’s body exhumed so genetic material could be gathered.
Bardalet and a team of forensics analysts removed the 1-ton stone slab blocking the tomb’s entrance to collect hair, nails and two large bones, according to the Guardian. “His moustache is still intact, [like clock hands at] 10 past 10, just as he liked it. It’s a miracle,” Bardalet, who also cared for Dalí’s body after his 1989 death, told Catalan radio station RAC1. “His face was covered with a silk handkerchief—a magnificent handkerchief… When it was removed, I was delighted to see his moustache was intact… I was quite moved.”
He added that the iconic face curls would be there “for centuries,” and the science backs him up. It’s a common misconception that hair and fingernails grow after death—that’s an illusion created by dehydrating skin—but hair is made of a non-soluble protein, keratin, that doesn’t decompose.
A statement from Catalonia’s high court confirmed that the remains had been removed.
Abel claims her mother’s romance with Dalí occurred in 1955, a year before she was born. Antonia Martínez de Haro worked as a nanny in Port Lligat, Spain, where Dalí and his wife Gala summered at the time. The details of the Dalís’ relationship are hazy, with reports variously that the surrealist was a virgin when he met his wife, that masturbation was his near-only source of sexual release, that he was a voyeur and preferred to watch Gala sleep with other men, that he was impotent, and that he had an affair with Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. These incidences, if factual, could impact the likelihood of a traditional heterosexual love affair between Dalí and Martínez de Haro.
The results from Abel’s DNA test will be available within a few weeks. The case is set to resume in September, and the stakes are high. If Abel is Dalí’s flesh and blood, she stands to gain up to a quarter of Dalí’s $300 million estate, as well as priceless access to the Dalí name.
The exhumation, however, has ruffled some powerful feathers. The Salvador Dalí Foundation attempted to appeal the exhumation, but were unsuccessful. Creators has reached out for comment on their next steps. Figueres Mayor, Marta Felip, the New York Times reports, told RAC1 that the exhumation was “grotesque,” and has threatened to sue Abel for the cost of the exhumation if her paternity suit fails.