Salvador Dali may be dead, but his mustache is in fine form. Spanish authorities confirmed that the surrealist painter’s slender, gravity-defying facial hair was in good condition after exhuming his remains on Thursday (July 20), in the hopes of resolving a paternity suit.
“The mustache preserved its classic ten-past-ten position,” Lluis Peñuelas, secretary-general of the Dalí Foundation, said in Spanish newspaper El Pais. “Checking it was a very exciting moment.”
The robustness of Dali’s mustache might seem surprising. But his body was embalmed according to his wishes back in 1989, and temporarily put on display before his funeral. “Doctors said embalming would preserve the body for up to 300 years,” The Guardian reported after his death. Nearly 30 years in, so far, so good.
Tales of dead celebrities disturbed from their graves, from Eva Peron to Pablo Neruda, tend to provoke a certain morbid fascination among the living. But the occasion of Dali’s exhumation also offers an opportunity to consider the tale of his late wife, Gala—who took one last ride in a Cadillac after her passing, Weekend at Bernie‘s style.
As Marlene Wagman-Geller writes in the 2015 book Behind Every Great Man: The Forgotten Women Behind the World’s Famous and Infamous, Gala died of the flu seven years before Dali, in 1982. The distraught Dali wanted to fulfill his late wife’s request to be buried in the medieval castle in Púbol, a small Catalonian town in Spain, that he had purchased for her as a gift. There was just one problem: She had died at their home in the village of Portlligat, and Dali wasn’t supposed to move her. Wagman-Geller writes:
He broke a plague law enacted in the 1940s that prohibited moving the dead without official permission. He wrapped her body in a blanket and, aided by his nurse, her corpse was placed in the backseat of their 1969 Cadillac de Ville where they took a surrealistic last ride together. The driver, Gala’s personal chauffeur, worried her ghost would be angry with him as she had always insisted on taking the front seat. Dali’s muse was as intimidating in death as she was in life.
Happily, Gala’s body made it to the castle, where Wagman-Geller reports that she was “embalmed and laid to rest in her favorite red Dior evening gown in a crypt watched over by mythical carved animals.” Dali himself was buried at the Dalí Museum Theater in his hometown of Figueres. But while the couple may be physically separated in death, it seems they are both remarkably well-preserved.