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Nanci, My First Wife, And Her Encounters with Salvador Dali

January 13, 2009 by · 2 comments

Alan Rosin

Photo: daquellamanera

Nanci was a force of nature. She had thick chestnut brown hair, green eyes and was nearly 5′ 10″ tall. She exuded confidence and style. When we were together, people’s attention was always focused on her, which was just fine with me.

Her father designed and manufactured fine jewelry, and was very wealthy. His business was in a building in midtown Manhattan a block or so from the famous jeweler Cartier, which was one of his clients. I never knew Nanci’s mother. She died in childbirth when Nanci was four. Her younger brother survived and became an accomplished classical guitar player.

Nanci went to the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan. While there, The Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibited her sculpture as one of the finest high school artists in the city of New York. After graduation, Nanci attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she learned, among other things, draping, which is the hands-on art of fashion design.

Her taste and artistic abilities amazed me. She would design jewelry, paint, sculpt, design clothing, anything artistic.

One day in 1965, I mentioned something about the dramatic story and amazing piece of art I saw in the latest edition of the Marvel comic book, Fantastic Four. That evening, I came home from my work at CBS News and there was the most important panel of the issue reproduced in large scale in watercolor and India ink on vellum. It was a dramatic shot of The Thing, that powerful member of the Fantastic Four, angry as hell and about to cause some serious damage. It was a beautifully done piece of pop art and it hangs on my wall today. I will take a picture of it soon, and add it to my pics on MySpace.

In that same year, Nanci was walking past the St. Regis Hotel at around 5 PM, when a unique looking individual came out of the hotel, stopped her and asked in a strong Spanish accent, “Do you know who I am?” “Of course” she said, “You’re Salvador Dali”. He said, ” Will you pose for me?” She responded,” I’ll have to ask my father and my fiancee.”

As an artist, Nanci was excited to have met Dali. She came home that night, showed us his business card and asked her father and me what she should do. She had never been a model, but the thought of spending some time with one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century was a fascinating thought to contemplate.

So, she asked us, and we both encouraged her to give a try.

Photo: actiondatsun

The first time she went there, He brought her into his studio and began to sketch her in charcoal. He did a number of sketches of her face, and then asked if she would be willing to remove her top so he could do a figure study of her. Nanci obliged and he produced a number of sketches of her like that, also in charcoal. After an hour, he thanked her and paid her $20, which was pretty good money in 1965. She didn’t the need the money because she could buy virtually anything she wanted, but she took it and kept it for a memento.

When she came home, we asked her how it went. She said it was OK, but she was a bit uncomfortable, since sometimes he spoke in Spanish and she couldn’t understand him. She also said when he wanted her make a specific change in her pose, his English got much easier to understand. She told us although he wanted her to come back, she was unsure about it.

The fact is, Dali may have been a strange person, but he was courteous and treated her well. I wanted her to go back one more time for a specific reason. I said to her, “Next time, don’t take any money from him, ask instead for one of his sketches.” For me, to have an original sketch of my soon-to-be wife by Salvador Dali would have been something I would treasure all my life.

So she sat a second time for Dali. Again, he did a number of sketches in charcoal. He was courteous to her, but after the second one, she had had enough. Being an artist’s model was not for her. And of course, he refused to give her a sketch. But for her as an artist, to spend a couple of hours with him, to see him work, was an experience worth taking. For me, I admit I regret never being able to see how Dali represented her on paper.

Believe it or not, that story about Nanci is not atypical. She was artistic, mercurial, dramatic, endlessly talented, beautiful, smart, fascinating. Our marriage lasted four years, nine months and thirteen days. Every day with her was an adventure.

Alan Rosin

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