© 2023 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Paternity Suit: Salvador Dali's Body Ordered Exhumed


I'm sorry, this is just surreal. A Spanish judge has ordered the surrealist artist Salvador Dali's body be exhumed for DNA tests in a paternity suit. Here's Lauren Frayer from Madrid.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Pilar Abel was born in 1956 to a maid working for a family who vacationed on Spain's Mediterranean coast, near the home of Salvador Dali.

PILAR ABEL: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "The first time I saw him, I was a little girl," she says, "I was out for a walk with my grandmother, and she pointed him out." Abel spoke to reporters three years ago when she first filed her paternity suit. She described confronting her mother...

ABEL: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: ...Who admitted to having an affair with the artist in 1955, the year before Abel was born. Abel says her family always told her she was strange, just like your father. Dali was infamously eccentric. His most famous surrealist painting is of melting clocks. He was married at the time to his muse Gala, who lived in a castle, which he visited with written permission only. They had no children. Without an heir, Dali left his fortune - in the hundreds of millions - to the Spanish state when he died in 1989. But then in 2007...

ABEL: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "I went public with my big secret," Abel says. She now works as a tarot card reader and claims to resemble Dali. "The only thing missing is the moustache," she says. On Monday, a judge approved her lawsuit and ordered Dali's bones exhumed for DNA tests. He's buried in a crypt under a theater and museum in his home town. The foundation that manages Dali's assets says it'll appeal in the coming days. Abel could claim up to a quarter of that fortune. In that case, she says she's thinking about changing her name to Dali. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Madrid. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.