Paris Secrets: Salvador Dali’s Sundial

One of my enduring fascinations in the streets of Paris, has been sundials. Yes, I am obsessed with finding them: especially ones which remain hidden in plain sight. I will be writing more about sundials of Paris in my upcoming posts. In the meantime, you can peruse this unique compilation of all the sundials of Paris. 

Left: The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali/ Right: Portrait of Salvador Dali by Phillippe Halsman
Left: The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali/ Right: Portrait of Salvador Dali by Phillippe Halsman

The sundial that I want to talk about today, I found quite unexpectedly while researching my next walk around Paris’s Quartier Latin. The Latin Quarters of Paris has long been recognised as the intellectual heart of Paris owing to its unique place in the cultural and gastronomical landscape of Parisian history. It situated on the left bank of the Seine, with a magnificent view of the Notre Dame Cathedral. This neighbourhood or cartier, is over 2000 years old, and its quaint cobblestone street and beautifully preserved old buildings, along with its unique history and diversity, makes it one of the most interesting places to experience. 

It is home to some of the oldest jazz bars and cafes in Paris, where eminent literary and cultural icons such as Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Bertolt Brecht, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Julia Child used to be regulars. Along with these landmarks, the cartier also has historical buildings such as Pantheon, Church St Etienne, and the University of Sorbonne, which add to its charm.

In a place such as this, chock-a-block with so many things to see and experience, including the iconic Rue Mouffetard, where Julia Child spent so much time shopping for her magnificent kitchen, it is understandable why some of the less glamourous streets might not get much love and attention. But in Paris, it is always best to keep your eyes and ears open for the many quaint curiosities this city keeps hidden in plain sight.

In an nondescript street of the Latin Quarters, lies a true Parisian Easter egg: this sundial made by Dali himself, almost hidden since it is on the side of a very unremarkable-looking building, facing away from the main road. 

Salvador Dali’s Sundial on Rue Saint-Jacques by @theshufflenet

Dali had a persistent and enduring relationship with many Paris-based artist and with the city itself. He was very active during the decade of 1920s, called ’Les Annes Folles’ or quite simply, ‘the crazy years’, when Paris saw a roaring upswing and reinvigoration of its art and culture landscape. He frequently visited Paris, where he met artist Joan Miró, poet Paul Éluard and René Magritte, who was instrumental in introducing Dali to Surrealism. It was also here that Dali began what came to be a deep association with Picasso, his friend, mentor and professional rival. 

The name of the street where this sundial is situated is called Saint-Jacques. Incidentally, Saint- Jacques means scallops in French. And apparently, scallops are also what Dali took as the inspiration for this sundial. I mean, are we surprised? As you can see in the attached image, it is indeed scallop-y with bright blue eyes which are aflame, as an homage to the sun. The last detail is definitely my favourite: the hair cascading down is in the shape of the signature moustache twirl of Dali! Isn’t that a classic Dali twist at its best?

The story goes that Dali’s made this sundial at the request of his friend who used to own the building. It was put in place in 1966 with Dali himself gracing the occasion with his presence.

If you are ever in Latin Quarters next time, do take the time to check this iconic street art piece by Salvador Dali. 

Address: 27 Rue Saint-Jaques, Paris 75005

Featured Image: Left: The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali/ Right: Portrait of Salvador Dali by Phillippe Halsman

And if you have seen this already, let me know what you think. Or if you know of any other art by Dali hidden somewhere else in plain sight, let me know!

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