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The Story of Salvador Dali’s Lip Sofa (It Was Inspired By Mae West’s Pucker)

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Mae West’s Lips Sofa, 1936

The ultimate artist, Salvador Dalí was also a designer who created various objects and furniture.

Dalí thought art should permeate all aspects of life and became interested in furniture after meeting, famous french designer and decorator, Jean Michel Franck. Around ’34-’35, Dalí used a photo of the actress Mae West, to create a painting called:

“The Face of Mae West which may be used as a surrealistic apartment”

In the painting (left) the face became the room and each facial feature an element: the nose became a fireplace, the eyes were pictures and the lips, a sofa…

This was the inspiration for what became the 3D Mae West Lips Sofa upholstered in “shocking pink” fabric, by designer Elsa Schiaparelli, which was the same color as the lipstick wore by Ms. West.

René Magritte, 1937, Portrait of Edward James

Dalí conceived this with Edward James in 1936 and had a pair of them executed in 1938. James gets second billing because he was really the money man. Born into great wealth, he was a big benefactor of the surrealists. He sponsored Dalí for all of 1938 and James’ collection was one of the finest of surrealist work in private hands. He also provided practical help (like getting sofas made.) He allowed surrealist René Magritte to stay in his London house to paint around this same time.

As well as Dalí and Magritte, his collection included works by the greats like Giorgio de Chirico, Paul Klee, Pavel Tchelitchew, Pablo Picasso, Giacometti, Max Ernst and Paul Delvaux, among others. Most of the collection was sold at Christie’s two years after his death in 1986.

Conceived by Salvador Dalí and Edward James and executed by Green & Abbott in 1938 as one of a pair of Lips Sofas for the dining room at Monkton House. It sold at auction last year at Christie’s in London for $650,000

The pair of lips sofas in the dining room of James’ estate, Monkton House

Dali & James discussing, “Dream of Venus” for the New York World’s Fair, 1939


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