La persistencia de la memoria (1931) or The Persistence of Memory is the most famous painting by artist Salvador Dalí. The painting has also been popularly known as Soft Watches, Droopy Watches, The Persistence of Time, or Melting Clocks.
It has been owned by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City since 1934. It was, however, on display at the Salvador Dalí Museum, in St. Petersburg, Florida, (1 February–1 June 2008). The Persistence of Memory returned to the Museum of Modern Art in June 2008 as part of the exhibition Dalí and Film, on view from 29 June – 15 September, 2008.
It is possible to recognize a human figure in the middle of the composition, in the strange "monster" that Dalí used in several period pieces to represent himself - the abstract form becoming something of a self portrait, reappearing frequently in his work. The orange clock at the bottom left of the painting is covered in ants. Dali often used ants in his paintings as a symbol for death.
In general the tree means life, but, in this case, it has the same function as the rest of the elements in the picture: to impress anxiety and, in a certain way, terror, although it is likely that it was conceived as a functional element on which to drape one of the watches. The golden cliffs in the upper right hand corner are reminiscent of Dalí's homeland, Catalonia, and are derived from the rocks and cliffs at Cape Creus, where the Pyrenees meet the sea.
It is rumored that the painting was sprinkled with red wine shortly after it was complete, as was the Mona Lisa.
The painting was first exhibited in Paris at the Galerie Pierre Colle in 1931, where it was purchased by the New York gallerist Julien Levy for $250. In 1933 it was sold to Mrs. Stanley B. Resor, who donated the piece anonymously to the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1934.
Dalí returned to the theme of this painting with the variation The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory (1954), showing his earlier famous work systematically fragmenting into smaller component elements, and a series of rectangular blocks which reveal further imagery though the gaps between them, implying something beneath the surface of the original work; this work is now in the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, while the original Persistence of Memory remains at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Dalí also produced various lithographs and sculptures on the theme of soft watches late in his career.