Salvador Dali's coffin opened for paternity test

FIGUERES, Spain -- A court spokeswoman says that forensic experts have opened Salvador Dalí's coffin to obtain DNA samples that could help settle a paternity lawsuit.

The coffin was opened half an hour after it was lifted from the crypt where Dalí's remains have been for the past 27 years, the official with the court administration in northeastern Spain's Catalonia said in an emailed statement. She made the comments anonymously in line with internal rules.

Only five people are handling this part of the process, the official said, in order to reduce the risk of contaminating the DNA samples.  

One hour after the doors closed to visitors, four people carrying a coffin entered the Dalí Theater Museum. Technicians needed to install a pulley system on scaffolding to lift a 1.5-ton stone slab that covers the crypt where painter's embalmed body was interred 27 years ago.

A marquee will also be installed under the museum's glass dome to prevent any photography or video of the process, even from drones.

Dalí's body is in the Spanish city of Figueres, in a tomb inside a palatial museum designed by the artist himself and then named in his honor, "CBS This Morning" reports.

Like an Egyptian pharaoh, the eccentric painter planned his own afterlife, and he wanted to remain forever surrounded by some of his greatest works; The surrealism that made Dalí one of the most prolific artists of the 20th century lives on.

A committee of judges, corners and technicians immediately started working to obtain biological samples that could shed light on whether a 61-year-old tarot card reader, Pilar Abel, is, as she claims, Dalí's daughter.

"I asked my mother if Salvador Dalí was my father, because he was a little bit ugly," a very frank Abel said during a news conference on Wednesday. "My mother responded, 'yes, he was your father.'"

Abel first claimed the bloodline 10 years ago, saying her mother, who was a nanny near Dalí's home, had an affair with him. A judge ruled in her favor.

Experts will take DNA samples from bone and tooth fragments and send them to Madrid for analysis.

Dalí died in 1989, married but without any children, and always insisting he had been faithful.

The Salvador Dalí Foundation has tried to fight off the exhumation, but barring an 11th hour legal surprise, a court spokesman said the test will go on.

Regardless of lineage, both the fortune teller and the surrealist know how to put on an elaborate show. Case in point: Abel once told a Spanish newspaper the only thing she was missing, was a mustache.

She insists the test is not about money -- a fortune worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Abel may not know the results of the test until September, when the court ruling is expected.

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