Salvador Dali's Woodcut for Dante's Purgatory Canto # 23 With the violet signature and the EA mark in the lower left side. Paper size is 10-1/2 " X 13 " later frame. This woodcut was purchased in the late 1960's
Originally, the illustration of the Divine Comedy was planned as a commission by the Italian government for the Dante Anniversary. But at the last minute, the commission was cancelled. In the end, the project was realized by private publishers thanks to the initiative of Joseph Forêt.
There exists a certificate by Salvador Dalí, hand-signed in blue crayon, dated August 13, 1959. It confirms the handing over of 103 watercolors for the illustration of Dante's poem. The pictures were created over the years since 1950. Finally, in 1960 it became certain that the plan could be realized. But the work on the "Publication of the Century" began a long time before 1959. The preparation of the printing plates took many years.
In addition to the colored woodcuts, there was the intention to publish Dalí's sketches as etchings in another edition. However, this book with black and white etchings was only produced in a very limited edition. Back then, there was not enough demand for such a book. For that reason, even the authorized exemplars were not all printed.
Signed and unsigned sheets
Salvador Dalí signed some of the portfolios of the colored woodcuts. In addition to 150 numbered and hand-signed graphics for the German-speaking lands (including Switzerland), signed exemplars for France, Italy and the United States are known to exist. In general, the signed prints have the following color signatures:
Cycle: The Hell. 34 prints; red signature
Cycle: The Purgatory. 33 prints; violet signatures
Cycle: The Paradise. 33 motives, blue signatures
Joseph Forêt owned a limited number of woodcuts with signatures in black and red ink. This kind of signature is given by artists to their publisher and collaborators, most often free of charge. Usually, such a signature is combined with the initials H.C. (horse commerce)--which means "not for sale." The other possible mark seen is E.A. (épreuve d'artiste). It means "the exemplar of the artist." Such graphic works are much sought after by collectors.
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