This painting was initially inspired by what Dalí called an “intra-uterine memory.” Of this experience, Dalí states, “all enchantment for me was in my eyes and the most splendid…vision [while in the womb] was that of a pair of eggs fried in a pan without a pan...” Dalí claims that he could conjure this intrauterine memory whenever he wished by applying pressure with his fingers to his eyes, stimulating his phosphenes to create bright visual images. In this painting Dalí reproduces the colors that remind him of his mother’s womb: “the intra-uterine paradise was the color of hell…red, orange, yellow, and bluish, the color of flames...”
The egg suspended on a string represents an embryo attached by the umbilical cord in the fiery orange world, while the shape also suggests a limp phallus. The dripping watch hanging on the lichen covered wall, whose shape mimics the embryonic yoke, is a “soft watch” variant which already had become a Dalínian trademark (representing the fluidness and irrelevance of time in the artist’s dreamy Port Lligat).
A second inspiration for the painting was Dalí’s desire to pay tribute to Gala. He was reluctant to paint her likeness and instead focused on one of her celebrated attributes – her gaze. The muse to many Surrealists during the 1920s, part of Gala’s power was her unblinking gaze, described by husband Paul Éluard as, “so intense it could pierce walls.” In this work, Dalí makes a surreal metaphoric leap by painting the eggs on the plate with a shimmer he likens to his muse’s piercing gaze.
The painting’s severe architecture reveals Dalí’s preoccupation with the contrast between geometric architecture and fluid life forms. It may also foreshadow Dalí’s later preoccupation with the architect of Spain’s San Lorenzo de El Escorial Juan de Herrera (1530-1597) and with Ramon Llull (1232-1315), a Catalan mystic obsessed with numerology and inventing a unified system of knowledge. Juan de Herrera was also the author of Discourse on Cubic Form.
1933, Paris, Pierre Colle, “Exposition Salvador Dali”
1934, London, Zwemmer Gallery, “Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Etchings”
1956, Knokke Le Zoute, Casino de Knokke Le Zoute, “Salvador Dalí”
1965, New York, Gallery of Modern Art, “Salvador Dalí, 1910-1965”
2001, London, The Tate Modern, “Surrrealism: Desire Unbound"
2002, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Surrrealism: Desire Unbound"
2006, Tokyo, Ueno Royal Museum, “Dalí Centennial Retrospective”
2007, St. Petersburg, Fl., Salvador Dalí Museum, “Dalí and the Spanish Baroque”
2012, Paris, Centre Pompidou, “Dali: Retrospective”
2013, Madrid, Museo Nacional Reina Sofia, “Dalí. Todas las sugestiones poéticas y todas las posibilidades plásticas”
2015, Houston, The Menil Collection, “The Secret of the Hanging Egg: Salvador Dali at the Menil”
2016, St. Petersburg, Fl., Salvador Dalí Museum, "Ferran Adrià: The Invention of Food"