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Fame and celebrity

Digging up the dead: bones of surrealist artist Salvador Dali exhumed for a paternity test

The decision to dig up the remains of surrealist artist Salvador Dali, ordered by a Madrid court on Monday, will lead to the latest high-profile exhumation to settle a paternity claim

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2017, 2:51pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2017, 2:56pm

A Spanish judge on Monday ordered the remains of artist Salvador Dali to be exhumed to settle a paternity suit, despite opposition from the state-run foundation that manages the artist’s estate.

Dali, considered one of the fathers of surrealist art, died in 1989 and is buried in his museum in the northeastern town of Figueres.

Pilar Abel, a tarot-card reader from the nearby city of Girona who was born in 1956, says she is the offspring of an affair between Dali and her mother, Antonia.

At the time of the alleged affair, Dali was married to his muse, Gala, who died seven years before the painter. Gala had a daughter from an earlier marriage but the couple had no children of their own. Upon his death, at age 84, Dali bestowed his estate to the Spanish state.

On Monday, a Madrid court statement said that tests with DNA from Dali’s embalmed body were necessary because there were no other existing biological remains with which to make a genetic comparison.

Abel’s court litigation started in 2015 when she sued the Ministry of Finance, as the trustee of Dali’s estate, and the Gala Dali Foundation that was created to administer it.

“What she wants is to have a result of the tests with full guarantee in order to finish with this as soon as possible,” Abel’s lawyer Enrique Blanquez said.

If there’s a match, Abel could use Dali as her surname and pursue further legal action to claim her rights over the artist’s work and property, which according to regional laws could amount to 25 percent of all of the estate.

The Gala Dali Foundation will appeal Monday’s decision, foundation spokeswoman Imma Parada said in an e-mailed statement.

But according to Blanquez, the appeal could not immediately stop the exhuming of Dali’s remains.

The first hearing in the case is scheduled for September 18, the lawyer said.

Digging up the famous for DNA testing

Argentine icon Juan Peron

The remains of the populist leader, who served three terms as president of Argentina, were exhumed in October 2006, 32 years after his death. A 72-year-old woman, Martha Holgado, claimed to be his daughter. DNA tests showed that she was not.

French crooner Yves Montand

The remains of the popular French singer and film star, who died in 1991, were dug up in March 1998 at Paris’s Pere-Lachaise cemetery after a long legal battle. A 22-year-old woman, Aurore Drossart, sought to prove that she was his daughter; DNA tests showed this was not the case.

Chess legend Bobby Fischer

Fischer’s remains were exhumed in July 2010 in his adopted country Iceland to establish if nine-year-old Jinky Young from the Philippines is his daughter, as the girl’s mother claims in a row over his estate. Test results submitted to a tribunal in Reykjavik showed Fischer, who died in 2008 aged 64, was not the father.

F1 champion Fangio

The body of five-time Formula One champion Juan Manuel Fangio was exhumed in August 2015 in his native Argentina to settle a paternity dispute two decades after his death at age 84. Two men -- Oscar Espinoza and Ruben Vazquez who brought separate cases claiming Fangio was their father were found via DNA to be his sons, according to the Argentine media in 2015 and 2016.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse