Salvador Dalí's Body Will Be Exhumed to Provide Samples in a Paternity Suit

Dalí in 1956, the year Pilar Abel was born. Photo via AP Images
Dalí in 1956, the year Pilar Abel was born. Photo via AP Images

A woman claiming to be Salvador Dalí’s illegitimate daughter has successfully won a court order to exhume the long-dead painter’s body in order to provide a DNA sample. Pilar Abel, an astrologer and tarot card reader, claims that Dalí had an affair with her mother in 1955. The secondary question of whether Dalí’s spermatozoa look like tiny melting clocks under a microscope will have to remain unanswered, for now.

Abel says that her mother Antonia Martínez de Haro had a “clandestine love affair”with Dalí when he and his wife Gala were living in the tiny fishing town of Port Lligat. Dalí died in 1989, and Abel has been trying to prove she is his daughter since 2007, when she reportedly had DNA tests done using hair and skin samples taken from the artist’s famous death mask. Abel said in 2008 that the results were “inconclusive.” She then asked Dali’s biographer to help facilitate testing using medical samples that belonged to the painter, but those, too, were inconclusive.

In 2015, Abel filed suit in a Madrid court, with her lawyer arguing that Dalí’s body should be exhumed if it was necessary for more accurate DNA testing. The BBC reports that the order was granted on Monday, although it’s unclear when the exhumation will take place.


Besides historical and familial accuracy, there are millions of dollars at stake here: the Times noted in 2015 that the paintings Dalí left to the Spanish government when he died are worth hundreds of millions of euros. A representative for the Dalí estate denied Abel’s claims in 2008, telling the Spanish news agency Efe, “There is no relationship between this woman and Salvador Dalí.”

Anna Merlan was a Senior Reporter at G/O Media until September 2019. She's the author of Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power.

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Why is it still a thing that if you’re a biological child of somebody, you deserve to inherit something, even if you had no relationship or even met each other? I could understand her mother suing the estate for back child support, but the (potential) daughter should have no claim.