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Dali's trademark moustache intact at '10 past 10' position
Secretary general of the Gala-Dali Foundation Lluis Pañuelas speaks during a press conference outside the Teatre-Museu Dali (Theatre-Museum Dali) following the exhumation of Salvador Dali's remains in Figueras on July 21, 2017. Twenty-eight years after his death, Salvador Dali will be exhumed today to determine whether he is the biological father of Pilar Abel, a 61-year-old clairvoyant who claims to be the only daughter of the great Spanish master of surrealism. LLUIS GENE / AFP.

by Benjamin Bouly Rames / with Daniel Silva in Madrid

MADRID.- Surrealist master Salvador Dali's trademark moustache is in perfect shape in its "ten past ten" position, officials said Friday, a day after his remains were exhumed to settle a paternity claim.

"I was very anxious about what I would see," said Narcis Bardalet, the forensic expert who embalmed Dali back in 1989 and who was at his grave the moment he was exhumed on Thursday night for DNA test.

"I was absolutely stunned. It was like a miracle...his moustache appeared at 10 past 10 and his hair was intact," Bardalet added during an interview with the public television station TVE1, referring to the positions of the hands on a clock.

The arduous task of exhumation involved removing a slab weighing more than a tonne that covered his tomb at the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueras in northeastern Spain where the eccentric artist was born.

Bardalet was one of only a handful of people including a judge allowed to watch the removal of samples from Dali's remains.

"It was a moving moment for him and for us," Lluis Penuelas Reixach, the secretary general of the Salvador Dali Foundation, told a press conference, in a reference to Bardalet.

DNA samples were taken from Dali's hair, nail and two long bones, he added.

A Madrid court last month granted Pilar Abel a DNA test to determine whether she is Dali's child, as she claims.

Abel, a 61-year-old who long worked as a psychic in Catalonia, says her mother had a relationship with the artist when she worked in Cadaques, a picturesque Spanish port where the painter lived for years.

If Abel is confirmed as Dali's only child, she could be 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.

But the Dali Foundation's lawyer has indicated Abel could get 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," said Albert Segura.

'Act of violence'
Before work in the crypt began on Thursday, mobile phones were put in a deposit and a marquee was installed under the museum's glass dome to prevent any photography or video from drones.

A crowd of onlookers gathered outside the elaborate museum of Dali's work to watch as police escorted the experts into the building, which is topped by a huge metallic dome decorated with egg shapes. Dali designed the building himself.

The Dali Foundation had tried to fight off the exhumation with an appeal, but there was not enough time for all parties to present their case, a court spokesman told AFP.

Penuelas, the secretary general of the foundation, said the exhumation was "almost an act of violence against a dead person".

"The foundation will reopen the crypt in a private act to restore the integrity of Salvador Dali's body," he added.

Abel has already provided a saliva sample for comparison and the results are expected within a matter of weeks.

The foundation blasted the court's decision to order the exhumation, saying in a statement that it was based only on Abel's claim that her mother once had a relationship with Dali.

The foundations said that before carrying out an "invasive" exhumation of Dali's remains, Abel's DNA should have been compared to her brother's.

If they both matched, it would mean they shared a common father, who was not Dali.
"The court ruling that ordered the exhumation lacked any basis," the statement said.

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.

© Agence France-Presse

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