DNA test shows Spanish psychic is ‘not Dali’s daughter’

This file photo taken on June 27, 2017 shows Spanish national Pilar Abel Martinez, 62, who claimed to be Salvador Dali's daughter, speaking during an interview in Barcelona. (AFP / Lluis Gene)
Updated 06 September 2017

DNA test shows Spanish psychic is ‘not Dali’s daughter’

MADRID: A DNA test on the exhumed remains of Salvador Dali show he is not the father of a Spanish psychic claiming to be his illegitimate daughter, the Dali Foundation said Wednesday.
A court had ordered Dali’s exhumation to settle the paternity suit lodged by Pilar Abel, who would have been entitled to a share of his vast fortune if she was found to be his daughter.
“The DNA tests show that Pilar Abel is not Dali’s daughter,” the foundation, which had tried to stop the exhumation, said in a statement.
“The paternity suit forced the exhumation of the remains of the artist,” it added.
The arduous task of the exhumation in July involved removing a slab weighing more than a ton that covered his tomb at the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueras in northeastern Spain where the eccentric artist was born.
Forensics experts then removed DNA samples from Dali’s skin, nail and two long bones.
The Dali Foundation’s lawyer, Alber Segura, has warned that Abel could be landed with a big bill if her claims are proven false.
“If Pilar Abel is not Dali’s daughter then we must ask this woman to reimburse the costs of the exhumation,” he said at the time of the exhumation.
Abel, a 61-year-old who long worked as a psychic in Catalonia, claims her mother had a relationship with the artist when she worked in Cadaques, a picturesque Spanish port where the painter lived for years.
A Madrid judge in June granted her a DNA test to find out whether her allegations are true.
If Abel had been confirmed as Dali’s only child, she would have been entitled to 25 percent of the huge fortune and heritage of one of the most celebrated and prolific painters of the 20th century, according to her lawyer Enrique Blanquez.
Dali’s estate, which includes properties and hundreds of paintings, is entirely in the hands of the Spanish state.
The Foundation says it was worth nearly 400 million euros ($460 million) at the end of 2016.
In an interview with AFP just days after a court ordered the exhumation, Abel said her grandmother had told her she was Dali’s daughter when she was seven or eight years old. Her mother admitted it much later.
Abel is from the city of Figueras, like Dali, and she said she would often see him in the streets.
“We wouldn’t say anything, we would just look at each other. But a glance is worth a thousand words,” she said.
The Dali Foundation said the exhumation had caused “a great stir” and recalled that Abel has two brothers who knew nothing about Dali supposedly being her father.
“It remains to be seen what will be the reaction of the different sides and of the judge who ordered the exhumation when the details of these tests are known,” it said.
Born on May 11, 1904 in Figueras to a bourgeois family, Dali developed an interest in painting from an early age.
In 1922 he began studying at the Fine Arts Academy in Madrid where he developed his first avant-garde artistic ideas in association with poet Federico Garcia Lorca and the filmmaker Luis Bunuel.
Soon he left for Paris to join the surrealist movement, giving the school his own personal twist and rocketing to fame with works such as “The Great Masturbator.”
Returning to Catalonia after 12 years, he invited French poet Paul Eluard and his Russian wife Elena Ivanovna Diakonova to Cadaques.
She became his muse — he gave her the pet name Gala — and remained at his side for the rest of her life.
They never had children and she died in 1982, seven years before Dali’s death.


What makes dogs so special? Science says love

Updated 20 February 2020

What makes dogs so special? Science says love

  • Canine science has enjoyed a resurgence in the past two decades, much of it extolling dogs’ smarts
  • Although dogs have an innate predisposition for affection, it requires early life nurturing to take effect

WASHINGTON: The idea that animals can experience love was once anathema to the psychologists who studied them, seen as a case of putting sentimentality before scientific rigor.
But a new book argues that, when it comes to dogs, the word is necessary to understanding what has made the relationship between humans and our best friends one of the most significant interspecies partnerships in history.
Clive Wynne, founder the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, makes the case in “Dog is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You.”
The animal psychologist, 59, began studying dogs in the early 2000s, and, like his peers, believed that to ascribe complex emotions to them was to commit the sin of anthropomorphism — until he was swayed by a body evidence that was growing too big to ignore.
“I think there comes a point when it’s worth being skeptical of your skepticism,” the Englishman said.
Canine science has enjoyed a resurgence in the past two decades, much of it extolling dogs’ smarts.
Titles like “The Genius of Dogs” by Brian Hare have advanced the idea that dogs have an innate and exceptional intelligence.
Wynne, however plays spoilsport, arguing that Fido is just not that brilliant.
Pigeons can identify different kinds of objects in 2D images; dolphins have shown they understand grammar; honeybees signal the location of food sources to each other through dance; all feats that no dogs have ever been known to accomplish.
Even wolves, dogs’ ancestor species known for their ferocity and lack of interest in people, have shown the ability to follow human cues — including, in a recent Swedish study, by playing fetch.
Wynne proposes a paradigm shift, synthesizing cross-disciplinary research to posit that it is dogs’ “hypersociability” or “extreme gregariousness” that sets them apart.
One of the most striking advances comes from studies regarding oxytocin, a brain chemical that cements emotional bonds between people, but which is, according to new evidence, also responsible for interspecies relationships between dogs and humans.
Recent research led by Takefumi Kikusui at Japan’s Azabu University has shown that levels of the chemical spike when humans and their dogs gaze into each other’s eyes, mirroring an effect observed between mothers and babies.
In genetics, UCLA geneticist Bridgett vonHoldt made a surprising discovery in 2009: Dogs have a mutation in the gene responsible for Williams syndrome in humans — a condition characterized by intellectual limitations and exceptional gregariousness.
“The essential thing about dogs, as for people with Williams syndrome, is a desire to form close connections, to have warm personal relationships — to love and be loved,” writes Wynne.
Numerous insights have also been gleaned through new behavior tests — many devised by Wynne himself and easy to replicate at home with the help of treats and cups.
One involved researchers using a rope to pull open the front door of a dog’s home and placing a bowl of food at an equal distance to its owner, finding that the animals overwhelmingly went to their human first.
Magnetic resonance imaging has drilled down on the neuroscience, showing that dogs’ brains respond to praise as much or even more than food.
But although dogs have an innate predisposition for affection, it requires early life nurturing to take effect.
Nor is the love affair exclusive to humans: A farmer who raised pups among a penguin colony on a tiny Australian island was able to save the birds from marauding foxes, in an experiment that was the basis for a 2015 film.
For Wynne, the next frontiers of dog science may come through genetics, which will help unravel the mysterious process by which domestication took place at least 14,000 years ago.
Wynne is an advocate for the trash heap theory, which holds that the precursors to ancient dogs congregated around human dumping grounds, slowly ingratiating themselves with people before the enduring partnership we know today was established through joint hunting expeditions.
It’s far less romantic than the popular notion of hunters who captured wolf pups and then trained them, which Wynne derides as a “completely unsupportable point of view” given the ferocity of adult wolves who would turn on their human counterparts.
New advances in the sequencing of ancient DNA will allow scientists to discover when the crucial mutation to the gene that controls Williams syndrome occurred.
Wynne guesses this happened 8,000 — 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age, when humans began regularly hunting with dogs.
What makes these findings important, beyond advancing science, is their implications for dogs’ welfare, he argues.
That means rejecting brutal, pain-based training methods like choke collars based on debunked understandings of “dominance” popularized by celebrity trainers who demand dog owners become “pack leaders.”
“All your dog wants is for you to show them the way,” says Wynne, through compassionate leadership and positive reinforcement.
It also means carving out time to meet their social needs instead of leaving them isolated for most of the day.
“Our dogs give us so much, and in return they don’t ask for much,” he says.
“You don’t need to be buying all these fancy expensive toys and treats and goodness knows what that are available.
“They just need our company; they need to be with people.”