Salvador Dali's Depictions of the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac

Salvador Dali's "The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac"

In 1967, famed surrealist artist Salvador Dali illustrated a portfolio depicting the twelve signs of the zodiac: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. Dali’s timing aligned with a boom in the popularity of Astrology in the late 1960s. Today, though only 25% of people believe in astrology, most people know their star sign, and many find entertainment in reading about their sign or their horoscope.

In this portfolio, Dali imagined each sign in bright colors and expressive lines. Though they are a departure from his most well-known style of biomorphic and almost hyper-real dreamscapes, the depictions are uniquely Dali. The artist even swapped out the crab symbol for Cancer for a lobster, a motif he explored earlier in his artistic oeuvre. The text, written by Nicolas Sokoloff, is philosophical and often surreal itself—using unusual and expressive language and structures to describe the attributes of each sign and their classifications. It also offers comparisons and predictions for a certain person’s life as it may be influenced by the alignment of the stars and planets.

The signs are classified multiple ways: in their quadruplicities (Cardinal, Steady, and Mutable), in their dominant element (Fire, Air, Water, Earth), and by their ruling planet or celestial body. Cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn) are characterized by newness and inspiration. Steady signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius) are characterized by stability and dependability. Mutable signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces) are characterized by adaptability and multiplicity. Fire signs are passionate and impulsive, Air signs are idea-driven and adventurous, Earth signs are grounded and practical, and Water signs are emotional and mysterious.

The work was published by Leon Amiel in Paris & New York in two editions—one on Arches paper and one on Japan paper. It was printed in France by Mourlot. In the portfolio, there are twelve original lithographs signed in pencil by the artist and with a lithograph frontispiece signed in the stone. The portfolio, offered in full by the David Barnett Gallery, is #10 (X) out of 50 (L) on Japon paper.

Read on to view and read how Dali and Sokoloff depict and predict your personality and fate based on your birth date, and Happy New Year!

Capricorn (December 22-January 20)

Capricorn is a Cardinal sign that pertains to the realm of Earth and is ruled by the power of Saturn. Dali’s Capricorn is a brightly-colored horned goat with a twisted mermaid’s tail. It is surrounded by water and earth tones.

Some say they are cold and severe, but within is a fire that burns with strong passion and secret impulsivity. They are often very rigorous and exhibit perfectionism, but are very ambitious and reality-driven. It is for this reason that Sokoloff does not believe the Capricorn person does well in music, but rather finds a perfect creative outlet in painting. He mentions Cezanne as an example of a Capricorn painter—describing his painting as a “methodical conquest” with great discipline.

Aquarius (January 21-February 19)

Aquarius is a Steady sign that pertains to the realm of Air and is ruled by the power of Uranus. Dali portrays Aquarius as a seated, haloed, and robed woman pouring water out of a jar.

Aquarius is very systematic and inventive, and constantly looking towards the utopian future. An experience-based sign, Aquarius is described as “fascinating but unmethodical,” much like a Bohemian, with ideas that are “too new, too revolutionary.” Sokoloff claims that Aquarius is often given a genius mind, and mentions “the divine Mozart” among its ranks. Fernand Leger is the foremost Aquarius painter; he has a machine-like and avant-garde language of painting to render “monumental stillness” of modernity.

Pisces (February 20-March 20)

Pisces is a Mutable sign that pertains to the realm of Water and is ruled by the power of Neptune. Dali’s Pisces features two fish connected at the mouth—one red and one blue.

“Pisces lives in the world of sensations.” An intuitive and lucky sign, Pisces has a “mysterious radar” with which they receive information and spontaneously react to make their way through life. Pisces can sometimes get lost in the supernatural and the mysterious, and may become confused with their interest in the spiritual and their desire for earthly riches. Renoir embodies the Pisces spirit in his painting, employing a sculptural and carnal sense into all of his works because of his passion for the body and his intimate connection with nature.

Aries (March 21-April 20)

Aries is a Cardinal sign that pertains to the realm of Fire and is ruled by the power of Mars. Dali depicts the Ram with textured, golden fur floating above a curved green landscape beneath a surreal sun.

Aries is an impulsive and passionate sign—“nothing [is] tepid…everything is desire, impulse, intensity”—with grand mystical quests and calls to action constantly ruling their fate. Anxiety surrounds the Aries when not in motion, and the neurotic willpower of this sign makes it impossible for the Aries to find fulfillment without conquest and aggression. If an Aries fails, anguish abounds. Sokoloff remarks about the Aries’s immense talent of disseminating passion—Francisco Goya and Vincent Van Gogh’s lurid and sometimes agonizing scenes are typical of the Aries mind.

Taurus (April 21-May 21)

Taurus is a Steady sign that pertains to the realm of Earth and is ruled by the power of Venus. Taurus, to Dali, is a light-colored bull climbing blue and black undulating ground.

The Taurus is a sensuous being with a great connection to reality and Nature and a steadfast and sometimes stubborn rhythm. Because this sign is ruled by Venus, love and pleasure also rule the life of a Taurus. This sometimes manifests positively, as devotion and tender affection, but can also be negative, manifesting in jealousy, greed, or excess. Taurus artists like Georges Braque work with great effort and consistency to reach perfection. Henri Rousseau is also listed for his patient mastery of craft and his reverent depictions of lyrical nature.

Gemini (May 22-June 21)

Gemini is a Mutable sign that pertains to the realm of Air and is ruled by the power of Mercury. Dali’s Gemini is a transmogrified human that separates into two bodies at the torso.

Gemini embodies “the game for the sake of the game” and is always changing and never committing. They may become detached because of their inherent and internal contradictions. Gemini can “transcend himself” to grow roots and begin building a singular character and goal. Balance can be acquired, but Gemini lives in the relative and often in doubt and instability. However, Gemini often provides us with pure intelligence. Raoul Dufy and Paul Gauguin embody Gemini with their dual nature—movement and irony in Dufy and “civilization” and “savagery” in Gauguin.

Cancer (June 22-July 22)

Cancer is a Cardinal sign that pertains to the realm of Water and is ruled by the power of the Moon. In this portfolio, Cancer is not a crab but a deep red Lobster, relating to Dali’s previous work.

Emotion is essential to the Cancer, much more than action. “Wayward, impulsive, a poet and a dreamer, Cancer retains the gift of childhood far into life.” Sokoloff relates the Cancer to the Oedipus complex, and often ascribes childlike qualities (positive and negative) to this sign. They are spontaneous, lyrical, and often passive, but very devotional and protective in love, and especially devoted to fond and intimate memories. Camille Corot embodies the Cancer painter—his “intimate and secret” natural paintings effuse emotion, love, and spontaneity.

Leo (July 23-August 22)

Leo is a Steady sign that pertains to the realm of Fire and is ruled by the power of the Sun. Dali’s Leo is a blue-green lion on tufts of grass under a red and green sun.

Leo is the sign of royalty, glory, and genius, but is also prone to neuroses at the possibility of failure and narcissism. Individuality is passionate in this sign, as is the desire for ascendancy and beauty. Leos may be artists searching for glory or arts patrons seeking to inspire it. Jacques Villon, an aristocrat and painter, exemplifies the Leo way. A proud and idealistic man, he writes “I paint in order to know myself in relation with the universe…not to make pictures.” Leo works for perfection and glory. Sokoloff remarks, “Such is the attitude of kingly Leo.”

Virgo (August 23-September 23)

Virgo is a Mutable sign that pertains to the realm of Earth and is ruled by the power of Mercury. Virgo, according to Dali, is a faceless nude woman in a blue head scarf holding a splattered black staff.

Virgo is a logical sign who nonetheless holds a deep and powerful sense of superstition. Virgo is an analyzer and a connector, and is often calculated and calm. However, a passion lies within that gives Virgos a secret duality, and it may come through and jeopardize the Virgo’s perfectionist façade. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, a perfectionist and purity-seeking painter, embodies Virgo’s forgoing of freedom for exactness. Hans Arp, however, has “shaken himself free from the negative values in Virgo…” and reconciles his inner imagination and his logic and perfectionism.

Libra (September 24-October 23)

Libra is a Cardinal sign that pertains to the realm of Air and is ruled by the power of Venus. Dali’s Libra is a set of green and yellow scales.

Libra is a charming advocate for justice in all aspects of life—law, aspirations, love. Often haunted by their own imperfections, some Libras tumble into frivolity to forget the violence of the mind, but most escape the extreme. Libra is often conflicted by balancing their own aspirations and desires with that of a partner or other. Dancing and music is the art form that suits Libras best; harmonies and rhythms come naturally. However, a painter of Romance and tenderness like Pierre Bonnard also signifies the Libra “elegance of the soul.”

Scorpio (October 24-November 22)

Scorpio is a Steady sign that pertains to the realm of Water and is ruled by the power of Pluto. Dali’s Scorpio is a mustachioed scorpion on a melting clock-like pedestal—Dali himself is a Scorpio and referenced himself for this illustration.

“Scorpio is…the sign of the constant revising of oneself...,” often through immense creative destruction. Scorpio hates things being half-way and is often seen as a very intense sign. Instinctive decisions drive this sign’s life, as do sensations and the extremes of joy and pain. Sokoloff claims that many Scorpios have a passion for things that are secret and hidden, like Claude Monet’s fascination with capturing an instantaneous moment of light. The Impressionists’ fight against the rigid and naturalistic world aligns them with Scorpio. Pablo Picasso is also “a pure Scorpio, he wants to destroy again and again, in order to create anew…”

Sagittarius (November 23-December 21)

Sagittarius is a Mutable sign that pertains to the realm of Fire and is ruled by the power of Jupiter. Dali’s depiction of Sagittarius uses bold and gestural black lines to create the long-haired centaur archer.

Exploration is in the Sagittarian’s blood. They are passionate about both “imaginary or actual expeditions,” and are thus dedicated to studying the different cultures that surround or precede them. The centaur in Sagittarius represents instinctiveness, and the archer represents spirituality, and the two elements are often at odds. This conflict can sometimes overwhelm a Sagittarius with emotion. Kandinsky is the Sagittarian example, seeking the “spiritualization of art” and beauty through transcendence of the real.

The David Barnett Gallery has many artworks from this portfolio currently available, as well as others by Salvador Dali. Send us an email to get more information: inquiries@davidbarnettgallery.com OR view on Artsy: https://www.artsy.net/david-barnett-gallery/artist/salvador-dali


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