That’s “Busto Retrospectivo de mujer” in the famed artist’s native Spanish, how it was introduced to me at the Museo Botero in Bogota.
Located in the heart of the historical Candelaria neighborhood in central Bogota, the museum contains 208 works donated by Colombia’s most famous artist to the national bank’s art collection –123 of them are by Fernando Botero himself with another 85 works by international artists. It’s an impressive collection too: besides that of Salvador Dalí, you’ll find names that are a veritable Who’s Who of 19th and 20th century international art: Renoir, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Leger, Braque, Miro, Bacon, Balthus and Picasso. To start. (More on the general collection to come.)
This piece is given pride of place in its own beautifully lit space, serving as a bridge between rooms that house mid-19th century pieces and those of the early 20th.
Among Dalí’s first surrealist sculptures, the work dates back to 1933, and depicts a portrait bronze painted bust of a woman balancing a large baguette on her head which in turn balances an inkwell illustrating a praying couple (figures from Jean-Francois Millet’s painting The Angelus (1857–59, the discovery of which inspired Dalí to pursue the piece). She’s wearing a pair of corncobs and strip of images from a zoetrope, a pre-film animation form, around her neck. Ants crawl on her forehead and from one side of her mouth. It’s bizarrely captivating. I returned to the museum twice to study it and snap more images.
In 1931 Dalí described Surrealist sculpture as “created wholly for the purpose of materializing in a fetishistic way, with maximum tangible reality, ideas and fantasies of a delirious character.”
Retrospective Bust of a Woman not only presents a woman as an object, but explicitly as one to be consumed. A baguette crowns her head, cobs of corn dangle around her neck, and ants swarm along her forehead as if gathering crumbs.
When this work was exhibited in 1933, Pablo Picasso’s dog is reputed to have eaten the original loaf of bread.
I’m not clear on how many copies and casts exist. Besides this one from Botero’s collection, New York’s Moma has one on display as does the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain.
Five more images below.