A famous painting by Salvador Dali, the English translation of the name is Fried Eggs on a Plate without the Plate. Painted with oil on canvas and measuring in at 60 x 42 cm, it depicts a plate containing two eggs resting on the ledge of a rather plain building during sunset (or maybe sunrise?). Through a small window you can see a man and his son looking out the building through the other side (they are both very small compared to the rest of the painting). Two metal hooks on the side of the building hold up an oversized carrot while a dripping pocket watch hangs from a string attached to the carrot. A string tied to a fried egg hangs, with no intimation of what it is attached to, from the sky over the plate of two eggs, or so it appears.

The pocket watch (on the left side of the building) hangs from the carrot, with its shadow on the building’s wall. Judging by the shadow, there must be a source of light to the right of the scene depicted in the painting. The most logical conclusion is that the sun must be to the right of the building, not behind it, as it may seem in the picture. This is supported by the fact that the plate and the carrot also give off a shadow in that direction. However, the egg suspended from the sky gives off no visible shadow on the building side, as it should were it actually over the plate. What does this mean? Here are two possible explanations:

  1. The egg is not over the plate as it first appears, but actually in front of the building, making it the focus of the picture.
  2. The egg is not really there.

The first conclusion is the more likely of the two. The name of the painting describes this egg, so it would make sense to have it in the forefront of the picture.

The second explanation has a deeper meaning. Why would the egg (which is obviously there) not be there? Salvador Dali was named after his older brother, who died not long after his birth. All throughout his adolescent life he was treated like he was the reincarnation of his older brother, not like an individual himself. The two eggs on the plate could represent the togetherness of his family with his brother. Dali is the hanging egg that is separated from the rest, worthless enough that he doesn’t even have his own shadow, therefore making him nonexistent. The man and his son inside the building could have a similar meaning. They are small and distant, although they appear to be happy together. Dali is looking at them through the window, aloof from the fatherly love.

Oeufs sur le plat sans le plat” is privately owned by Mr. and Mrs. A. Reynolds Morse, who loaned it to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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