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The cranial harp or skull is a recurring object in Dalí's works. The skull normally represents death. The bureaucrat represents the old order, the establishment, against which the surrealists were rebelling. I simply do not know the meaning of the bureacrat in this painting milking death.

The Catalan landscape here is not detailed, nor is the sky. The sky is nearly black at the top of the painting. There are no hidden figures to be found in the background or foreground -- this is uncharacteristic of Dalí. The skull is barely recognizable its shape is so distorted. The bureaucrat looks like a mutant from a sci-fi movie with enlarged cranial lobes that protrude from the back of his head -- similar to modern bicycle racing helmets.

A diffuse light is cast upon the bureaucrat as he sits on a series of geometric steps. The harsh angles of the steps are the only true straight lines on the canvas. He wears a simple shift, with one garter visible holding up a sock. The light strikes the bureaucrat's back as if from a setting sun. On one shoulder lies part of the skull - like a sack of flour. Similarly, the skull is supported on the other side by a crude wooden crutch - another device common to Dalí's works. The bureaucrat sits in a position typical of someone milking a cow. His hands are on the jaws of the skull as if they were udders.

The impression is that the scene is up high - steps on a mountain. The cranial harp is a flying creature. Perhaps the distended cranial lobes of the bureaucrat indicate a coming transformation -- he is in the early metamorphic stage toward becoming a cranial harp. Dying.

So simple, so very strange, so abstruse. Salvador Dalí.

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