Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) and textile design go together hand in glove—a detached hand in a Schiaparelli glove, that is. His 1937-38 forays into fashion with the provocative couturiere resulted in an organza dress painted with a giant, cooked lobster garnished with sprigs of parsley, and an evening gown printed to look as if torn. This collaboration enhanced the Spanish surrealist's fame as an artistic enfant terrible, and unexpectedly paved his way for successful fabric collaborations with American firms. Leaf Hands—unmistakably Dalí in subject and style—was one of several patterns commissioned by Schiffer Prints as part of the "Stimulus" furnishing textiles collection. His esoteric designs contrast starkly with those of the line's other contributors, adding a dash of painterly eccentricity to an otherwise earnest endeavor of modernist design. As a Schiffer advertisement noted for the collection's debut, "Technique is synonymous with the name of Salvador Dalí."
Assuming the "Stimulus" collection was in progress for at least a year before its launch in 1949, Leaf Hands was conceived of while Dalí and his wife, Gala, lived in New York (where the couple had retreated in 1940, leaving in 1948 after the war had subsided). This startling design of disembodied—and metamorphically inhuman—anatomic parts reflects one of Dalí's oeuvre-spanning fascinations, a theme preoccupying his imagination at that moment. Schiffer registered a copyright for Leaf Hands on July 6, 1949 (GU13131); within months, copyrights were also obtained by jewelers Alemany & Ertman for a clip in the form of a "large, veined hand with two smaller hands attached to wrist stem" and also a "pin representing [a] hand fashioned as a leaf." Watercolor sketches and known examples of these jewels document feminine golden hands with raised veins mirroring the textile motifs, right down to the ruby cabochon talons.
A panel of Leaf Hands is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal (D86.170.1a).
Read more in the Cora Ginsburg Modern 2018 catalogue.