Salvador Dali ashtray for Air India

Okay, so here is yet another Air India related post. Maybe I am enamored by the idea of cool give-aways by airline companies?

For those that are not aware, Air India had actually employed the services of the famous "Surrealist" painter Salvador Dali. He was commissioned to design an ashtray that was given to lucky passengers.
Imagine going down to your adventurous traveling, grandmother's basement and finding this relic alongside a snake charming flute? It apparently can fetch $800-1200+.

It is a funky design and one that I wouldn't look at twice, but hey it was designed in a limited addition by a famous artist and I would be the first in line at the, "Antique Road Show".

Source: ebay, Jan. 2003
"The ashtray is approximately 4" x 3" across and 2 1/2" tall. Ashtray is mostly unglazed porcelain with a glazed serpent around the lip of the ashtray. From the booklet that accompanied it:"

"The ashtray is composed of a shell-shaped centre with a serpent twined around its perimeter. It is supported by two surrealist elephant-heads and a swan. These supports are based on Dali´s double-image effect. The master explains: "The reflection of an elephant´s head looks like a swan and the reflection of a swan appears to be an elephant. This is what I have done for the ashtray. The swan up-side-down becomes an elephant´s head and the elephant inverted - a swan."

It is the first time that an artist of such world stature has designed an "objet d´art" for an airline. And we at Air-India are honoured and delighted to be able to present this most unusual ashtray to you."

I guess we should be angry that they have stopped serving peanuts on some airlines. If airlines went retro and played off the idea of airline travel being glamorous, we might not be so disgruntled when our flights were delayed.


Anonymous said...

The shell-shaped centre is a Water-Lily or Nymphaea.

This Ashtray was produced in a very limited edition of only 275 units manufactured at Teissonniere-Limoges for AIR INDIA in year 1967, to be given away only to select personalities around the globe.

Due to the fragile and very delicate manufacturing material, only very few of these ashtrays might be left in the world.

I have been told by Air India Officials that at least one of these pieces fetched well over 12.000 Euros at auctions in Paris.

This seems not strange if we think that only a few of the 275 units might have survived the passage of time.

Thank you for the picture, a very nice finding.

The ashtray was a design intended to serve as a present for personalities attending the theatrical release of Walt Disney's "The Jungle Book" in Madrid/Spain that is why Dali requested a live elephant baby in exchange for his great work.

Keep up the good job

Kate Hamilton said...

I have one of these ash trays - in good condition and still in polystyrene box that it came in, but haven't got the phamplet that came with it. The number on mine is 839 so imagine that there must have been more that 275 commissioned. Could be interested in selling it.

Anonymous said...

I have one with a navy blue snake and the number 614 that I inherited from my Dad. The story was that he won it in a New York Times contest. Has anyone ever heard of this? Any info appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I too have one of these ashtrays (Australian) - so maybe they are not that rare afterall. My was give to me after a family friend died. The ashtray was given to him as a gift from an Indian businessman who was a very frequent flyer of Air India. Mine is numbered 834.

Anonymous said...

Just found one today at a local Goodwill store in suburban NJ. Unfortunately mine is missing the trunk of the elephant support. Could anyone help me by supplying a casting of that piece for restoration purposes?

Jai said...

Please note that the orignal commissioned ashtrays have a green snake rim and no other colour.

Jai said...

The orignal ashtray design was made with a green snake rim and no other colour.

Anonymous said...

I have one of the original ashtrays (with the green snake around the top of the ashtray).
It is in mint condition.
I would be interested in finding out what it might be worth.

Ian Johnson said...

The piece I have is numbered 250. The snake is more or less a "teal" blue. I plan to take it to the St Petersburg Dali Museum in Florida to see if they have more information. My Dad told me that the piece was commissioned by Air India to commemorate delivery of India's first "Jumbo Jet" from Boeing.

Unknown said...

if anyone would be interested in selling their piece, i would love to acquire one.