MADRID • Surrealist master Salvador Dali's trademark moustache is in perfect shape in its "10 past 10" position, the foundation that runs his estate said yesterday, a day after his remains were exhumed to settle a paternity claim.
Mr Narcis Bardalet, who was responsible for embalming Dali's body 28 years ago, was at his grave when the body was exhumed on Thursday night for DNA tests.
"It was a moving moment for him and for us," Mr Lluis Penuelas Reixach, secretary-general of the Salvador Dali Foundation, told a press conference.
The arduous task of exhumation involved removing a slab weighing more than a tonne that covered his tomb at the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres in north-eastern Spain where the eccentric artist was born.
"When I took off the silk handkerchief, I was very emotional. I was eager to see him and I was absolutely stunned. It was like a miracle. His moustache appeared at 10 past 10 exactly and his hair was intact," Mr Bardalet told Catalan radio station RAC1 yesterday morning. Mr Reixach said DNA samples were taken from "his skin, nail and two long bones".
A Madrid court last month granted Ms Maria Pilar Abel a DNA test to determine whether she is Dali's child, as she claims.
Ms Abel, a 61-year-old who has long worked as a psychic in Catalonia, says her mother had a relationship with the artist when she worked in Cadaques, a picturesque Spanish port where the painter lived for years.
In an interview with Agence France-Press last month, just days after a court ordered the exhumation, Ms Abel said her grandmother had told her she was Dali's daughter when she was seven or eight years old. Her mother admitted it much later.
Ms Abel is from the city of Figueres, like Dali, and she said she would often see him in the streets. "We wouldn't say anything. We would just look at each other. But a glance is worth a thousand words," she said.
If Ms Abel is confirmed as Dali's only child, she could be entitled to 25 per cent of the huge fortune and heritage of one of the most celebrated and prolific painters of the 20th century, according to her lawyer Enrique Blanquez.
Dali's estate, which includes properties and hundreds of paintings, is entirely in the hands of the Spanish state.
The Salvador Dali Foundation says it was worth nearly €400 million (S$634 million) at the end of last year.
Ms Abel has already provided a saliva sample for comparison and the results are expected within a matter of weeks.
Born on May 11, 1904, to a bourgeois family, Dali developed an interest in painting from an early age. In 1922, he began studying at the Fine Arts Academy in Madrid where he developed his first avant-garde artistic ideas in association with poet Federico Garcia Lorca and the film-maker Luis Bunuel.
Soon after, he left for Paris to join the surrealist movement, giving the school his own personal twist and rocketing to fame with works such as The Great Masturbator.
Returning to Catalonia after 12 years, he invited French poet Paul Eluard and his Russian wife Elena Ivanovna Diakonova to Cadaques.
She became his muse - he gave her the pet name Gala - and remained at his side for the rest of her life.
They never had children and she died in 1982, seven years before Dali.