Salvador Dali on Monument Avenue? Almost!

While writing an article for my next book, “CIVIL WAR VIRGINIANS,” about Sally Tompkins, a Richmond woman who not only ran a Confederate military hospital during the Civil War, and was the only commissioned woman officer during the war, I discovered an odd and quirky moment in Civil War history.

It seems that in the mid-1960’s, as the Centennial celebrations of the Civil War were ending, some Richmonders thought it was time to add more Confederate monuments to Monument Avenue, where Davis, Lee, Jackson, Stuart, and Maury were already celebrated. Sally Tompkins was deemed an appropriate honoree, and some Richmonders contacted appropriate sculptors to offer designs.

Surrealist artist Salvador Dali was among those contacted, and he proposed a unique design for a statue which was, not surprisingly, immediately rejected. As you can see, it depicted Sally holding an upraised sword about to slay a dragon. As if that were not quirky enough, the two figures, Sally and the dragon, were to be standing on a mound which is in turn is resting on the extended index finger of Dali himself!

As it turned out, there were no more statues added during the Centennial, and the only addition came in 1995’s statue of Arthur Ashe. And of course, in the last year several of the statues have been removed/defaced as Richmond debates the future of Monument Avenue. One can only wonder what the debate might have been about if it had included, “When Sally met Dali!”

Author: geneofva

Author of "Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era," and of seven more Civil War books -- with more to come!!

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