A Muse's Mansion: Gala Dalí Castle

At one point in his career, Salvador Dalí signed his art with both his name and his wife's. He explained that Gala was so much a part of him, his life and his work that it was only fitting. The Gala Dalí Castle (also called Castell de Púbol), was purchased and redecorated by the artist with only his wife in mind. They call the site the southernmost point of the Catalonian "Salvador Dalí Triangle," whose other two points are in Cadaques and Figueres. Walking through, you realize that it is as much if not more about Gala than Salvador. Which doesn't make it any less interesting. This shade of blue must have been her favorite color, because the house was absolutely dripping with it.
I guess I assumed that a grand artist's mansion would be off on its own somewhere in picturesque seclusion. Driving into the little town of La Pera, we found a cluster of old houses clinging to the edge of the property. It immediately humanized the place and the people who'd lived in it. Legend has it that Gala got to know the locals particularly well, sending for handsome young men well into her late eighties. Dalí didn't seem to mind, as part of the reason for his purchasing the castle was to give her that sort of freedom. He couldn't have been all that surprised, either. They fell in love while she was married to surrealist poet Paul Éluard and having an affair with Max Ernst.
Every room had something amusing, something fascinating, something beautiful. Most of the radiators were covered with wicker screens, but this one was tucked away behind a door painted with an exact likeness of the hidden utilities. There was a lion's head flanked on both sides by huge bouquets of dried flowers, a coffee table which stood on ostrich legs and a chess set with pieces that resembled severed fingers. There were also lace canopied beds and a sweetly designed kitchen. It was fascinating to walk through - even more so because photo portraits of Gala, taken in each room, were hung above the spot in which she Salvador had her pose.
Downstairs, in the crypt, Mrs. Dalí is buried. A stuffed giraffe watches over her grave and an empty spot, presumably where he would have preferred to have been buried, sits alongside her. At the time of our visit, a really great photography exhibition was on display- Dalí by Halsman. The portraits of the artist, playful and clever and humorous, filled the room with so much energy that you left feeling like he (and his shape-shifting mustache) were following you through the rest of the house.
A blue Cadillac, with Monaco license plates (something particularly interesting to us), sat in the garage. When Gala died, Salvador took her for a spin in the Cadillac, bringing her from Figueres to Castell de Púbol along her favorite route. You'd think that would make the car seem macabre, but in this atmosphere, it was just another quirky detail. Gala's orange Datsun was parked outside.
There were incredibly views from the balconies and a lush garden, filled with pomegranate and lemon trees, in the yard. Elephants with giraffe legs stood around the greenery and a large fountain polka dotted with Richard Wagner's head were the expected touches of whimsy. It's an excellent place to visit, whether you know anything about Dalí or not. Just being somewhere that is at once comfortable and bizarre, absurdest and romantic is a lot of fun. It's a glimpse at the reality of a surrealist - and his muse.
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