On initial inspection, we immediately see the standard layout used by Dali at this time. There are the bright landscape colours which we likely inspired by his upbringing in Catalonia. There is then the focal point of the composition, Paul Éluard himself who is floating mid-air in the centre of the artwork. Additionally, there are then the true surrealist touches, inspired by the artist's dreams and ideas which can confuse and excite us in equal measure. Therefore, we must examine the items that sit alongside the portrait and try to decipher their identity as well as the reason behind each one's inclusion.
The artwork was completed in 1929, which was a very significant year for Dali, both artistically but also within his own personal life. The Great Masturbator, one of his finest paintings, appeared this year for example. These two paintings bear similarities in that they tell of Dali's own sexual frustrations, so do not be distracted by the fact that it is actually Eluard who is pictured here. Eluard and his wife had visited Dalí at Cadaqués in the summer of that year and Salvador was immediately smitten with Gala. They would eventually hold a loving relationship for some fifty years, but initially he would be frustrated because of her existing marriage to the poet. Dali was not someone to let something like this get in his way and did eventually prevail.
The various elements in this composition tell of the anxieties felt by Dali towards Gala and specifically his own sexual prowess. This was a rarity in his life, something that he was not confident about. He would often see women as desirable but unreachable, because of his own internal doubt. This would have surprise many, because on the outside he was an extrovert like no other. The jug styled as a woman represents Gala who needs to be filled, whilst the lion head was used as a symbol in a similar way to the writings of Freud, of which Dali was an avid follower. This portrait ultimately tells us very little about Paul Éluard, but is crucial in explaining the early relationship between Dali and his wife-to-be.