Surrealist paintings are described as dreamlike and fantastical. Much of Dalí 's paintings were images he had dreamed up. He said that he would paint what almost seem like photographs from his dreams. Dalí took Sigmund Freud 's idea that dreams are symbolic. Objects can symbolize something as well as take on a pun on the word. Much of the objects in Dalí 's paintings symbolize sexual desires that are expressed in dreams because society condemns them. The Temptation of Saint Anthony has many symbols including sexual symbols that make it dreamlike.
Surrealism is expressed in the absurd objects that are dreamlike yet have an explicit meaning. In the bottom corner of The Temptation of Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony is seen trying to ward off the temptations the horse and the elephants bring. These physical temptations symbolize the mental temptations Saint Anthony dealt with. The horse, leading, symbolizes strength and sensual desires/pleasures. Following the horse is the elephant that brings the Cup of Desire and a naked woman. The gold cup and woman represent sexual desires as well as riches. The next three elephants carrying a tower and temple represent morality and religion. However, The woman inside the temple and the gold on the outside show that the temple is corrupt. The last elephant carries another tower that symbolizes a phallic figure. It is said that the long legs of horse and elephants symbolize levitation and nearness to heaven. However, the thinness of the legs could also symbolize weak legs holding up the elephants and horse,
Cited: Forbs, Jill and Michael Kelly. French Cultural Studies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. (This is the reproduction of The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1946)). Néret, Gilles