Salvador Dali's eccentric history will take yet another bizarre turn Thursday with the attempted exhumation of his embalmed remains. The goal: find genetic samples that could settle whether one of the founding figures of surrealism fathered a girl decades ago. Pilar Abel, a 61-year-old tarot card reader, claims her mother had an affair with Dali while working as a domestic helper; after two decades of court battles, a Madrid judge last month granted Abel a DNA test. Upon his death in 1989 at age 84, Dali bestowed his estate to the Spanish state. His body was buried in his hometown's local theater, which had been rebuilt to honor the artist in the 1960s and now hosts the Dali Theater Museum, reports the AP.
When the gates of the premises close Thursday, forensic experts are expected to remove a 1.5-ton heavy stone slab for the first time in 27 years and evaluate the state of the remains to see if any genetic material can be obtained. It remains to be seen if the chemicals used for preserving the artist's body have damaged his genetic information, says the forensic expert who embalmed Dali. Regional Catalan officials said the two coroners in charge of the exhumation will be extremely cautious about handling Dali's remains out of respect and to avoid any contamination of the samples. The plans include removing four teeth, some nails, and the marrow of a long bone only if the corpse's status allows it. The process could take up to 11 hours; the samples would then travel to a forensic lab in Madrid, where an analysis could take weeks. (Read more Salvador Dali stories.)