This spectacular work of the Surrealist turned Catholic Dali, honors the Apostle, St. James, who is the patron saint of Spain, and known as "Santiago." The nuns in my Catholic elementary and high school taught us that patron saints are intercessors and advocates for us in heaven, and in this case, appear to be for an entire country.
The humongous horse is rearing up as if he's being blown out of the water with atomic force with a 3-D-esque St. James astride, emerging from the sea, exposing a dirty foot that symbolizes the long travels of the Apostles with Jesus. If you look at the center of the "atomic blast" there's a jasmine flower (which symbolizes unity & purity) which was a favorite of Dali, who would occasionally tuck one behind his ear for photo ops.
Normally, St. James has a sword in his hand when he is depicted in art, but Dali chose to have him raise up Jesus on the cross. The heavenly arches are a direct representation of the 13th century Church of the Jacobins in Toulouse, France, where missionaries would stop over on their way to Santiago. Note that there are 11 scallop shells in the arches, with one more on the breastplate of the horse, symbolizing the 12 Apostles. There are angels above and behind St. James and Jesus with two angels capturing the horse's attention. If you look closely, you'll see identical angels within the horse's neck.
Dali always incorporated a self-portrait in his paintings. In this one, he is teeny-tiny, below the hoof of the massive horse. Dali loved his wife, Gala, and would work her into many of his paintings as well. She's here in the lower right of the painting in a cloak. However, clocks, elephants, eggs and ants were typically portrayed in his work.
Click here to see a humorous side of Dali in a game show in the 1950s, or see the collaboration with Walt Disney which began around 1945, but was cancelled after only 15 seconds of the animation was developed. The film was finally completed and released in 2003, and was called Destino.
Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dali i Domenech
May 11, 1904-January 23, 1989