DNA tests show woman who sought Salvador Dali exhumation is not his daughter

Maria Pilar Abel claimed to be the daughter of surrealist Spanish artist Salvador Dali.
Maria Pilar Abel claimed to be the daughter of surrealist Spanish artist Salvador Dali. PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID (AFP) - A DNA test on the exhumed remains of Salvador Dali show he is not the father of a Spanish psychic claiming to be his illegitimate daughter, the Dali Foundation said on Wednesday (Sept 6).

A court had ordered Dali’s exhumation to settle the paternity suit lodged by Maria Pilar Abel, who would have been entitled to a share of his vast fortune if she was found to be his daughter.

“The DNA tests show that Pilar Abel is not Dali’s daughter,” the foundation, which had tried to stop the exhumation, said in a statement.

“The paternity suit forced the exhumation of the remains of the artist,” it added.

The arduous task of the exhumation in July involved removing a slab weighing more than a tonne that covered his tomb at the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueras in northeastern Spain where the eccentric artist was born.

Forensics experts then removed DNA samples from Dali’s skin, nail and two long bones.


The Dali Foundation’s lawyer, Alber Segura, has warned that Abel could be landed with a big bill if her claims are proven false.

“If Pilar Abel is not Dali’s daughter then we must ask this woman to reimburse the costs of the exhumation,” he said at the time of the exhumation.

Abel, a 61-year-old who long worked as a psychic in Catalonia, claims her mother had a relationship with the artist when she worked in Cadaques, a picturesque Spanish port where the painter lived for years.

A Madrid judge in June granted her a DNA test to find out whether her allegations are true.

If Abel had been confirmed as Dali’s only child, she would have been 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 Foundation says it was worth nearly 400 million euros (S$640 milllion)  at the end of 2016.

In an interview with AFP just days after a court ordered the exhumation, 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.

Abel is from the city of Figueras, 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.


The Dali Foundation said the exhumation had caused “a great stir” and recalled that Abel has two brothers who knew nothing about Dali supposedly being her father.

“It remains to be seen what will be the reaction of the different sides and of the judge who ordered the exhumation when the details of these tests are known,” it said.

Born on May 11, 1904 in Figueras 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 filmmaker Luis Bunuel.

Soon 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’s death.