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11 Hidden Secrets in Famous Works of Art

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

The surrealist works of the Spanish artist Salvador Dali have long provided fertile ground for philosophical interpretations.

(Image credit: Sean Gallup/Getty)

It is, however, definitely possible to see too much into some things.

The surrealist works of the Spanish artist Salvador Dali have long provided fertile ground for philosophical interpretations, and the famous melting watches in his 1931 painting "The Persistence of Memory" provide a cautionary tale.

At the time, a celebrated interpretation was that Dali's melting watches were a symbolic reference to the fluidity of time and space expressed in Albert Einstein's theory of special relativity: "a Surrealist meditation on the collapse of our notions of a fixed cosmic order," as one art historian wrote.

But when Dali was later asked about this theory by the Belgian scientist Ilya Prigogine, he replied in a letter that the distorted and dripping watches in the painting were not inspired by Einstein's theories of space and time — but by watching Camembert cheese melt in the sun.