A Spanish court has ordered the remains of Salvador Dalí to be exhumed in an attempt to settle a paternity claim from a 61-year-old woman. The court in Madrid has requested that the body be dug up as soon as possible to perform a DNA test on the artist who died of heart failure in 1989.

Maria Pilar Abel has been trying for 10 years to prove that she is the only child of Dalí, and hence heir to a quarter of his fortune. The tarot card reader and fortune teller claims she was conceived during a secret liaison in 1955 when her mother was working in Cadaqués. Dalí’s family had a holiday home near the fishing village and it is the setting for many of his paintings. Following the affair, Abel’s mother left the village and married another man.

According to Abel, her mother told her on several occasions that Dalí was her real father. She first learnt of the claim from the woman she knew as her paternal grandmother. At the time of the supposed tryst, Dalí was married to his muse and business manager, Gala, but they never had children.

In 2007, Abel won permission from the courts for an attempt to extract DNA. Traces were taken from hair and skin clinging to Dalí’s death mask, but the results proved inconclusive.

“The DNA study of the painter’s corpse is necessary due to the lack of other biological or personal remains with which to perform the comparative study,” said the Madrid court.

The Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, which controls the artist’s estate, announced it would appeal the ruling. The Foundation runs three museums and controls licensing rights for the artist. If the DNA test proves the paternity claim is positive, it could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Ironically, Dalí showed a profound interest in DNA and it is referenced in at least nine of his paintings. His ‘Galacidalacidesoxiribunucleicacid’, painted in 1963, is a tribute to Crick and Watson, the discoverers of the double helix.

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