Samples of hair, nails and two long bones have been removed from Salvador Dali’s embalmed remains.
The exhumation is to find genetic samples for a paternity test - a move that opens the possibility for a woman who says she is the surrealist artist’s only child to claim part of the Dali estate.
Pilar Abel, a 61-year-old tarot card reader, claims her mother had an affair with Dali in the northeastern Spanish town of Figueres, where the artist was born and later returned with his Russian wife Gala. Dali was buried in the Dali Museum Theater of Figueres when he died at the age of 84 in 1989.
A judge in Madrid ruled in June that only a DNA test could settle the lawsuit.
Forensic experts opened the artist’s coffin on Thursday night in a sensitive operation that involved using pulleys to lift a 1.5-ton stone slab.
Lluis Penuelas Reixach, the secretary general of the Gala Dali Foundation, said Dali’s remains are well conserved, mummified after the embalming process applied 27 years ago. He was speaking to reporters on Friday during a press conference in Figueres.
Even Dali’s charismatic moustache had survived the passing of time and remained in “its classic shape of ten past ten,” Penuelas said, referring to the position of the hands of a clock.
According to judicial authorities, only five people -a judge, three coroners and an assistant- were allowed to oversee the removal of the samples out of respect for the remains and in order to avoid any contamination.
Representatives of the foundation managing Dali’s estate said on Friday the evidence backing Abel’s claims weren’t enough to justify the intrusive exhumation, and that it will continue a legal battle to nullify the paternity test.
The foundation managing Dali’s estate and the museum in Figueres took steps to make sure no images of the exhumation may emerge in public. Before work in the crypt began on Thursday, mobile phones were put in a deposit and a marquee was installed under the museum’s glass dome to prevent any photography or video from drones.
If Abel’s claims proved right, she could claim one fourth of the painter’s estate that Dali bestowed to the Spanish state, according to her lawyer Enrique Blanquez. There are no current estimates of the value of that fortune.
If she is proved wrong, the Dali foundation will seek financial compensation for the costs of the exhumation.
Either way, minimizing the disruption to the museum’s operations and to the rest of Dali’s remains is the priority for the foundation, according to its secretary. “It’s important for Salvador Dali to be returned to rest in the interior of his museum’s dome,” Penuelas said.
The biological samples will travel to a forensic laboratory in Madrid for analysis, a process that could take weeks.