The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus

Artwork Details

The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus
Other Title
The Dream of Christoper Columbus

Salvador Dalí
Date Made
Oil on canvas
Image: 161 1/2 in x 122 1/8 in
Accession ID Number
Credit Line
Collection of The Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, FL (USA); Gift of A. Reynolds & Eleanor Morse
In the USA ©Salvador Dalí Museum, Inc. St. Petersburg, FL 2022 / Worldwide rights ©Salvador Dalí. Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí (Artists Rights Society), 2022; Photo © Doug Sperling and David Deranian, 2021.

Supplemental material


This work is an ambitious homage to Dalí's Spain. It combines Spanish history, religion, art and myth into a unified whole. It was commissioned for Huntington Hartford's Gallery of Modern Art on Columbus Circle in New York. At this time, some Catalan historians were claiming that Columbus was actually from Catalonia, not Italy, making the discovery all the more relevant for Dalí, who was also from this region of Spain. Dalí's inspiration for this work was The Surrender of Breda, another painting by Velazquez. Dalí borrows the spears from that painting and places them on the right hand side of his work. Within these spears, Dalí has painted the image of a crucified Christ, which was based on a drawing by the Spanish mystic Saint John. The banner that Columbus is holding bears the likeness of Dalí's wife, Gala. She appears as a saint, suggesting that she is Dalí's muse, and that she is responsible for his own "discovery of America," where he captured the attention of the world through her encouragement. The flies and the bishop at the bottom left are a reference to a Catalan folk legend (from Girona) about Saint Narciso's crypt. Dali uses this myth to underline his patriotic devotion to his homeland's independence.

Exhibition History:
1964, New York, Gallery of Modern Art, "Paintings from the Hungtinton Hartford Collection in the Gallery of Modern Art"
1965, New York, Gallery of Modern Art, “Salvador Dalí, 1910-1965”
2007, St. Petersburg, Fl., Salvador Dalí Museum, “Dalí and the Spanish Baroque”
2019, St. Petersburg, The Dalí Museum, "Visual Magic: Dalí's Masterworks in Augmented Reality"