Culture
Georgian prince painted by his friend Salvador Dali
04 January, 2017
A portrait of Georgian nobleman Archil Gurieli-Chkonia performed by famous artist Salvador Dali has recently become known to the wide public. As it turns out, these two iconic persons were close friends and the well-known artist created portraits of both Archil and his celebrated wife Helena Rubinstein, self-made businesswoman. It is noteworthy that Dali painted Georgian prince clad in a traditional Georgian man’s wear Chakura whereas in the background he depicted Georgian mythical hero Amirani, the pro
to-type of Prometheus, chained to the Caucasus cliff, as the legend says. In addition, in the background a church can be seen, which indicates that Georgia is a Christian country, and the ships that possibly tell the story of Argonauts that came for the golden fleece in Georgia. Far in the right side of the artwork a snow-covered peak is painted that also demonstrates Georgian landscape, in particular Caucasus Mountains. In one word, Dali made the portrait in Georgian theme and showed the country exactly as Archil described it to him.
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As for Georgian prince’s wife, Helena had a close relationship with many famous artists and often sat for them. Among her 30 portraits, the one performed by Dali in 1943 is unique, since it depicts Rubinstein chained to a rocky cliff by her jewels similarly to her husband’s portrait. The portrait is estimated at $1 million to $1.5 million and was exhibited at Sotheby’s. Rubinstein, who died in 1965, was a close friend and patron of Dali and commissioned him to decorate her 30-room Manhattan triplex with three murals. The portrait was painted a year later. Sotheby’s said the title is a reference to her marriage to her second husband, a Georgian prince.
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Helena's portrait by Salvador Dali

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Helena Rubinstein and Salvador Dali

Archil Gurieli-Chkonia was born in 1895 to the family of a petty nobleman. He claimed that his grandmother was a descendant of Gurieli princes, which was the reason why he added this surname to his official name, later receiving the title of tavadi (prince). In 1921 Archil Gurieli-Chkonia emigrated from Georgia. First, he went to Austria, then moved to France and beginning from 1937, he was living in the United States. In 1945-47 he was the head of Georgian Society of America. He never forgot his relatives and helped them as much as he could. He even helped some of them receive education abroad.Archil Gurieli-Chkonia found himself at the center of wide public attention when he married one of the richest women in the world, Helena Rubinstein (1882-1965), who was also called the Queen of Cosmetics. Helena was of Jewish descent and was born in Poland. She owned one of the biggest cosmetics companies in the world called ‘Helena Rubinstein’, which now forms part of L’Oreal group. Rubinstein led an active public life and was the patron of art. Her company has built the Museum of Modern Arts in Tel-Aviv. She gave money to traveling artists and Jewish students, funded various scientific researches and played an important role in America-Israel Cultural Foundation.
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Archil and Helena

The family life of Helena Rubinstein and Archil Gurieli-Chkonia was the subject of endless rumors, because Helena was 23 years younger than her husband. However, as it seems, this marriage was beneficial to both of them. Chkonia was attracted by the wealth of his wife and Helena – by the title of his husband. After marriage, Helena called herself the Helen the Princess Gurieli. In spite of such a huge age difference, Helena and Archil had created quite a successful business together and laid foundation of Gurieli Apothecary line. They produced expensive cosmetics for men and women. The Paris salon was led by Gurieli’s sister, Mariam, who had been a designer of hats at Coco Chanel.
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The couple led a bohemian life. They had the same hobby – playing Bridge. Gurieli was a very good player and often won considerable sums of money. Besides, their family stood out for a great hospitality and generosity. Archil Chkonia-Gurieli, thanks to his good manners, good looks and good humor, acquired new friends very quickly. He had befriended many famous people, including Janet McDonald, Erroll Flynn, Gregory Peck, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and others. Due to his friendship with Archil Gurieli-Chkonia, Aalvador Dali was of a very good opinion towards Georgians generally. This can be proved by one incident: One day, two Georgian students (robbers, according to some sources), wriggled their way into the yard of Salvador Dali’s house. They were soon detained by the security guards and when Dali learned that they were Georgians, he invited them into the house.
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Archil and Helena playing bridge

Archil Gurieli-Chkonia died in 1955, in Manhattan, New York. Helena was devastated, but outlived her husband by ten years. Gurieli-Chkonia left no offsprings and all his property, according to the marriage contract, was passed on to Helena.

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Archil and Helena

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