Heritage

The Scientific Reason Behind Salvador Dalí's Perfectly Preserved Moustache

Forensic experts who conducted the exhumation revealed the moustache's state.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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Salvador Dalí led an extremely amazing, eclectic life with an eccentric personality to match. Outside of his work, Dalí was known for his crazy antics. Once, the celebrated artist filled up a Rolls-Royce Phantom II with 500 kilograms of cauliflower and drove the vehicle cross-country from Spain to Paris in December 1955. He then vaguely reasoned, “Everything ends up in the cauliflower!”

So it was only right for some to conclude that the late artist would have enjoyed the thought of his own exhumation.

In March 2015, Pilar Abel filed court papers in which she detailed her mother’s repeated accounts of a tryst with the famed surrealist, claiming that Dalí was her father. The two had reportedly met in the Spanish town of Portlligat where Dalí and his wife had a house and where Abel’s mother worked as nanny. Abel’s search for answers started in 2007, when she first did a DNA test using Dalí’s death mask. However, the results were inconclusive. Almost two years later, Abel’s plea for the exhumation of his remains was approved.

It was conducted earlier this week at the Dalí Museum Theater in Figueres, Spain, the artist’s birthplace. A delicate process, the team needed to create a pulley for the stone slab covering Dalí’s crypt while setting up a marquee to prevent outsiders from viewing the remains. Prior to the exhumation, forensic experts were required to surrender their mobile phones. Samples of the surrealist’s hair, nails and bones were taken to assist in the paternity test. Once the samples have been through thorough testing, they will be returned.

In full Dalí style, it was found that the artist’s signature moustache was eerily intact—preserved in the ‘10 past 10’ position. The embalmer called it a “miracle,” the New York Times reports. Stephanie Pappas of Live Science expounds, “It isn't very surprising — at least from a biological perspective. Keratin, the protein that makes up nails and hair, resists decomposition, and both hair and nails can persist in graves for years.”

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Pappas continues, "The speed at which hair does degrade after death depends on the presence of keratinase-producing microbes and other environmental conditions. In dry conditions, hair can remain intact for hundreds, even thousands of years — the oldest hair ever discovered on a body was found attached to a 9,000-year-old mummy from Chile."

This marks the end of Abel’s long-awaited appeal but the beginning of the testing, coming more than two decades after the Spanish painter’s death. If found to be one of Dalí's rightful heirs, Abel will be entitled to a quarter of the painter's fortune.

h/t: Vanity Fair

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Paolo Chua
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