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The Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation has announced that DNA tests have disproved Pilar Abel’s claim that she is the daughter of surrealist painter Salvador Dalí. Dalí’s body was exhumed in July, as the result of a court order, to facilitate the testing which was to settle Abel’s paternity claim.
Abel, a tarot card reader from the town of Figueres where Dalí was born, has spent the last ten years trying to establish herself as the artist’s child and heir. Abel says that her mother met the artist in the 1950s, while working as a servant in the house of friends of Dalí and that the two had an affair which resulted in her own birth in 1956.
Abel established a legal paternity claim in 2015, presenting the anecdotal evidence of family members and friends, and demanding the right to exhume the body of her supposed father in order to take a conclusive DNA test. She brought the case against the Spanish state and the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, who were the beneficiaries of Dalí’s 600 million dollar estate and who would have to relinquish up to 25 percent of the estate to Abel if her claims turned out to be true.
In June this year, a Madrid court ruled that the test should take place, and that samples of Dalí’s physical remains should be exhumed to extract the necessary DNA. Against the wishes of the Foundation, which manages the Dalí Theatre and Museum where the artist was interred in 1989, the exhumation went ahead on the night of July 20. Forensic scientists removed hair and nail samples as well as two large bones, delivering them to the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences which would perform the DNA tests.
According to the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, the report received from the Institute concluded that DNA comparison “permits the exclusion of Salvador Dalí as the biological father of María Pilar Abel Martínez.”
“These samples prove that Pilar Abel is not the biological daughter of Salvador Dalí,” said a statement from the Foundation. “This conclusion comes as no surprise to the Foundation, since at no time has there been any evidence of the veracity of an alleged paternity.”
“The unusual and unjustified court decision to practice the exhumation is confirmed as totally inadequate and disproportionate, showing its utter inadmissibility and the uselessness of the costs and damages caused of all kind, in respect of which the Foundation reiterates its express right of actions.”
Not least among the bizarre details of the unfolding story was the appearance of Dalí’s corpse. Narcis Bardalet, Dalí’s original embalmer, was present at the disinterment process. In a conversation with a local radio station, he said he was “delighted” to see that the artist’s famous facial hair – which had been concealed under a handkerchief – had been unaffected by the passing of years.
“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,” he said, “his moustache appeared at ten past ten exactly and his hair was intact.”
Abel told Spanish media that she doesn’t believe the results of the analysis and is considering whether to appeal against them.
This would not be the first time that Abel has lost a court case against a celebrity. In 2005 she attempted, unsuccessfully, to sue author Javier Cercas, claiming that she was alluded to and insulted in his novel Soldiers of Salamis.