Judge dismisses Dalí paternity suit, orders plaintiff to pay costs

Ruling condemns “temerity” of María Pilar Abel Martínez, who pressed ahead despite DNA tests

María Pilar Abel during the trial.
María Pilar Abel during the trial.JAIME VILLANUEVA

A Madrid court has dismissed a paternity suit filed by a woman claiming to be the daughter of Salvador Dalí, and ordered her to pay the legal fees of a procedure that involved exhuming the famous Spanish artist’s embalmed remains from a crypt in the Catalan town of Figueres.

In early September, a DNA test using genetic samples taken from the grave showed that there is no relationship between the master of Surrealism and María Pilar Abel Martínez, a tarot card reader who claims her mother had an affair with Dalí while in his employment as a domestic worker.

Abel told the media that she felt “disappointed” at the “lies” that had been told inside the courthouse

The judge described Abel’s “temerity in failing to desist from the proceedings once she was informed of the results of the biological test, which was conclusive, and failing to request testimony from the team that conducted the test, if she disagreed with the outcome, at the hearing.”

The judge noted that the double DNA test excludes Dalí as the claimant’s father “without any shadow of a doubt.”

As a result, the 61-year-old plaintiff has been told to cover the costs of the legal proceedings, as requested by prosecutors, state lawyers and the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, which manages the artist’s estate.

Funeral workers at the Dalí exhumation in Figueres.
Funeral workers at the Dalí exhumation in Figueres.Albert García

“I have free justice, so what do you want me to pay?” said Abel after hearing the decision.

She also insisted that the custody chain in charge of Dalí’s remains was broken, meaning that there is no guarantee that the tested samples were in fact the painter’s.

The ruling may be appealed within the next 20 days before the Madrid Provincial Court. Abel’s lawyer, Enrique Blánquez, has confirmed that he will challenge the decision, and noted the “oddity” of demanding payment of legal costs in a paternity case.

Although no amount has been established, Blánquez said it could be in the range of €7,000. If Abel were to declare herself insolvent, this debt would be lifted.

Tourists at the Dalí Theater-Museum in Figueres.
Tourists at the Dalí Theater-Museum in Figueres.Albert García

The samples were taken on July 20, when the embalmed body of Dalí was taken out of its crypt under the Dalí Theater-Museum, where it has lain since the artist’s death in 1989. The Foundation had vocally opposed the exhumation, which attracted international media attention.

The ruling noted that Abel did not produce a shred of conclusive evidence to support the claim that her mother had a relationship with Dalí in the months prior to her own birth – on February 1, 1956 – other than a notarized statement by a third party who testified that Abel’s mother once mentioned the affair.

After learning about the adverse decision, Abel told the media that she felt “disappointed” at the “lies” that had been told inside the courthouse. She also questioned the results of the DNA tests. “After what I’ve seen today, I can believe anything,” she said.

Abel, who works as a television psychic, has been involved in other high-profile lawsuits in the past. In 2005 she sued the writer Javier Cercas, claiming that she felt insulted after seeing herself portrayed in the character of a fortune teller named Conchi in his acclaimed novel Soldiers of Salamis, and asked for €600,000 in damages. The case was dismissed in January 2006 after a judge determined that the character was purely fictional and that the author did not personally know the plaintiff.

English version by Susana Urra.

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