23 Jan. 2007



Marking the 18th anniversary of Dali’s January 23, 1989 death, the world’s foremost experts on Salvador Dali join a U.S.-based DNA expert and forensic scientist announces landmark discovery of Dali’s DNA.


Azay-le-Rideau, France: Robert and Nicolas Descharnes and Michael F. Rieders, Ph.D., Forensics Toxicologist and Chief Science Officer at The Forensics Mentors Institute (FMI) and Chairman of the Board of Directors of NMS Labs of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, announced the culmination of a bi-costal, international project to collect, identify and preserve  the DNA of Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali (1904 to 1989).  The DNA will be preserved as part of a project at the Forensic Archeo Toxicology Institute established by The Forensics Mentors Institute. The archival library already stores preserved samples from other historic cases. 

Dr. Rieders, a Dali enthusiast, has had a life-long fascination with DNA. It is a passion shared by Dali who believed DNA was the real proof of the existence of God. After learning about its discovery in 1953, Dali used DNA imagery in nine paintings from 1956 to 1976. The most famous of those works include: Still Life Moving Fast (1956), Butterfly Landscape, The Great Masturbator in Surrealist Landscape with DNA (1958) and Galacidalacidesoxyribonucleicacid/Homage a Crick & Watson (1963).  

Through the years, Rieders became inspired to find Dali’s DNA for the purpose of study and with the hope that, in the future, it might be used to unlock the genetic code for creative genius. “The authentication of his genetic code could serve as an important model for future scientific breakthroughs related to the isolation of specific genes for genius, creativity, flamboyance, so on,” said Rieders. “What has been done at NMS Labs could lead to a whole new wave of forensic science and I am thrilled that Dali, who was fascinated by the idea of DNA, could perhaps serve as the model.” 

The tests were performed in October 2006, by the forensic team at NMS, but it took months of hard work to make that possible. First, Rieders worked with Bruce Hochman, director of The Salvador Dali Gallery in California to locate an object that could provide a sample of Dali’s DNA.  For this, Hochman turned to his friends and colleagues in France, Robert and Nicolas Descharnes. The Descharnes are the world’s foremost authenticators of Dali artwork and were among Dali’s closest friends. They helped care for the artist in his final years.  Robert Descharnes met Dalí in 1950 and became his closest collaborator.  With his son Nicolas, they host the most complete archives about the master and have published worldwide Dali reference books (among are: The World of Salvador Dalí, Harper and Row, New York, 1962; Dalí, the Work the Man, Abrams, New York 1984; Dalí the Paintings, Taschen, Cologne 1993; Dalí the Hard and the Soft, Eccart, Azay-le-Rideau 2004) Fortuitously, The Descharnes had preserved a nasogastric tube used to feed Dali after he was saved by Robert Descharnes from his burning room at his castle of Pubol (Spain) in 1984. The Descharnes entrusted this private piece of Dali’s life to Dr. Rieders and NMS Labs because of its reputation for accuracy and confidentiality.  The tube contained biological material which allowed NMS to isolate and authenticate Dali’s DNA.  

“When we realized we had a possible source of Dali’s DNA we were tremendously excited,” said Dr. Rieders. “To be able to unlock the DNA of such an influential and brilliant artist more than fifteen years after his death is quite extraordinary.  We hope this discovery will provide the worlds of art and science with an impetus to continue this kind of very important work.”

Additional testing of the tubes revealed stains of blood and other biological fluids, most of which contained DNA. Utilizing meticulous scientific techniques, NMS isolated the DNA through a process called organic DNA extraction. The DNA was then analyzed by targeting specific locations (short tandem repeats or “STRs”) on certain chromosomes, which display variations in the human population. These variations are inherited from an individual’s mother and father. By comparing the results of these STRs in different samples of DNA, one can scientifically determine that the samples came from the same individual. Based on a lack of foreign STR profiles in the tube, it was concluded that it did not contain the DNA of any other person than Salvador Dali.  

The isolation of Dali’s DNA could have far reaching implications for the worlds of art and science.  Dali, in true outlandish fashion, was known for blessing his artwork with samples of his biological fluids.  His practice will provide authenticators with another method, that of DNA matching, to identify true Dali artwork from numerous  circulating imposters The method could become the newest and most reliable way to verify the authenticity of artwork and prevent fraud, an issue that has continually plagued the art collecting world. 

NMS Labs is a world-class, full-service, independent forensics testing facility, staffed by nearly 200 highly trained scientists. NMS Labs offers over 2,500 tests and is headquartered in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. NMS Clients include leading reference laboratories, corporations, government agencies, pharmaceutical firms, hospitals, academic institutions, physicians, medical examiners, coroners, attorneys, law enforcement agencies and courts of law. NMS Labs has worked on countless high profile forensic and DNA cases including the O.J. Simpson case, the first World Trade Center Bombing, the Kevorkian assisted suicide cases and more recently the investigation into the death of the son of Anna Nicole Smith. The Forensic Mentors Institute (FMI), of the Frederic Rieders Family Renaissance Foundation, is supported in part by NMS Labs. FMI performs high-level, esoteric research and provides world-class bioanalytical forensics training to academically gifted, underprivileged high school students each summer.

For more information on NMS Labs visit: www.nmslabs.com

For more information on The Salvador Dali Gallery visit: www.daligallery.com

For more information on Nicolas and Robert Descharnes, visit www.daliphoto.com and www.descharnes.com

Eccart Sarl, Consulting Expertise & Conception in art - Perré - 37190 - Azay le Rideau - France - www.eccart.com - nicolas@descharnes.com