Retrospective Bust of a Woman, 1933 by Salvador Dali
Several of Dali's obsessions translate into elements of this now iconic work. Atop the head of the naked painted porcelain woman is a kind of hat comprised of a bread loaf and a double-pen ink well, the latter based on Jean Millet's widely-known painting, The Angelus. Most anyone who follows Dali's art knows that this painting intrigued, haunted and obsessed Dali all his life - ever since he first saw a reproduction of it hanging in his grade school.
Millet's famous picture is of a poor peasant couple facing each other in a field, lamenting the death of their child. The woman's hands ore clasped together and her head is bowed in a prayerful pose. Dali's various interpretations of the motif are essentially sexual suggesting that the woman is akin to the preying mantis, paging pre-coital homage to her mate before eventually devouring him. According to Dali the man had his hat lowered to conceal an erection. This allusion suggests a key Freudian concept of castration anxiety that Dali was keen to explore within his 'paranoid-critical' method. In another depiction Millet's Architectonic Angelus, Dali uses biomorphic forms that depict the probe of the female mantis penetrating the male, its phallic tenure by a female alluding to the ideal androgyny that had possession of both male and female genitalia.