|Courtesy of www.dalipaintings.com|
In typical fashion, Dali personalized this theme, using it to try to pin down the hidden reasons for his long fascination with the painting The Angelus by Jean-Francois Millet. He idiosyncratically interprets Millet's figures as
being posed in the attitudes of praying mantises; for Dali, the Millet painting became an unconscious parable of female sexual power. The female figure, to the right, poses expectantly, ready to pounce, while the male, head bowed
in defeat, vainly tries to protect hi; genitals with his hat. Dali's own long-established fears of female sexuality, of impotence and castration, now found a portentous pictorial source, a new "paranoiac-critical" focus. As a
consequence, Dali often turned to this theme as though to expunge his fears.
In Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet's "Angelus," the low horizon line and the almost empty landscape emphasize the monumentality of the strange structure in the foreground. Dali transforms the Millet figures into monuments not because they are to be seen as dead symbols, but because they represent ever-present ancient principles, the foundations of human sexuality. Arnold Bocklin's evocative painting The Isle of the Dead informs the moonlit gloom of this powerful work, and i cypress trees, symbols of death and finality, stress the atmosphere of fatalism. These supposedly universal principles, in a process of male initiation, are being shown at the bottom center to a small boy, a boy, perhaps Dali himself, who is also seen to the right, with a seated nurse; these two similar scenes underscore the contra; between the innocence of childhood and the fears of adulthood.
This work's symbolism clearly arose from Dali's "paranoiac-critical method," a technique that he elaborated at length during the year of this painting in his Conquest of the Irrational, published in New York. In this method, when spontaneous, unpremeditated attention is drawn to an object or an event in this case Millet' The Angelus and its associated thoughts of human sexual drama the object is then searched for a personal psychological significance that can be given symbolic form, as in this painting.