Five great spanish artists − finding each other in one artwork: PEDRO ANTONIO DE ALARCON, MARTINEZ SIERRA Writer, MANUEL DE FALLA Composer, ANA MARIA DE MUNAR Dancer and SALVADOR DALI Painter

It was a cultural event for all admirers of Spanish art, when in April 1949 at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York, literature, music, painting and dance by Spanish artists united happily into one overall work of art: the performance of the ballet El Sombrero De Tres Picos / The Three Cornered Hat.

The Three-Cornered Hat (Spanish: El sombrero de tres picos) is a novel written by Pedro Antonio de Alarcón in 1874. It was adapted into the ballet The Three-Cornered Hat, by Manuel de Falla.

The novel has a theatrical format and it has been compared with Don Quijote, by Cervantes. The piece should be classified as a short story and it contains popular tradition with a linear plot line.

The music was composed by Manuel de Falla in 1919 to a text by Martinez Sierra, who edited a novella by Pedro Antonio de Alarcon for stage performance. So literature and music were ideally connected.

El Sombrero De Tres Picos (The Three-Cornered Hat or Le Tricorne) is a ballet originally choreographed by Léonide Massine to music by Manuel de Falla. It was commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev and premiered in 1919. It is not only a ballet with Spanish setting but one that also employs the techniques of Spanish dance (adapted and somewhat simplified) instead of classical ballet.

During World War I, Manuel de Falla wrote a pantomime ballet in two scenes and called it El Corregidor Y La Molinera (The Magistrate and the Miller’s Wife). The work was scored for a small chamber orchestra and was first performed in 1917.

Sergei Diaghilev of the Ballets Russes, saw the premiere of El Corregidor Y La Molinera and commissioned Falla to rewrite it. The outcome was a two-act ballet scored for large orchestra called El Sombrero De Tres Picos. This was first performed in London at the Alhambra Theatre on 22 July 1919 with sets and costumes created by Pablo Picasso and choreography was by Léonide Massine. Diaghilev asked Falla to conduct the premiere but the composer felt he was not experienced enough to conduct a work so complex and he handed the baton to Ernest Ansermet after one rehearsal.

April 1949. Salvador Dali was living in New York at the time. He was a friend of ballet throughout his life and admired the dancer and choreographer Ana Maria de Munar, who thrilled audiences with her Spanish Ballet Company. It was not hard to get Dali to design the sets and design the costumes of the dancers for the ballet El Sombrero De Tres Picos / The Three Cornered Hat, creating the biggest paintings by Dali.

The happy coincidence of the three extraordinary artists Manuel de Falla, Ana Maria de Munar and Salvador Dali not only brought unforgettable experiences to the New York public. Ana Maria and her Spanish Ballet Company performed the work in Dali’s original stage sets in Havana, Caracas, Madrid and Barcelona.

During this period in New York Salvador Dali painted several other smaller artworks related to this subject.


The loving relationship of the miller and his wife is disturbed by El Corregidor, the provincial governor, who wants to lead the miller to go on an adventure with him. As a sign of his dignity, the corregidor wears a sombrero de tres picos, a tricorne hat. The miller’s wife seems to respond to the wishes of the Corregidor, only to expose him to the mocking of the neighbors.

The music incorporates folkloric elements, such as castanets rattling and interjections, the miller’s wife is dancing Fandango, the miller Ferruca …

The story ends in a big celebration and the love of the miller to his wife.

Maximillian Krenn
Collector / Curator