Experts began exhuming Salvador Dali's remains in his Spanish hometown Thursday night in an effort to test a fortune teller's claims that the renowned surrealist is her father.
After hours, Police escorted forensics experts into the elaborate museum of Dali's work in his hometown of Figueres in northeastern Spain where his body is buried.
Onlookers and reporters stood behind yellow metal barriers set up in front of the red building topped by a huge metallic dome and decorated with egg shapes, which Dali designed himself, as the exhumation got underway.
"A day like this arouses a great deal of emotions in me because it reminds me of the day of his death," Maria Lorca, who was the mayor of Figueras in 1989 at the time of 84-year-old Dali's death, told the Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The notoriously eccentric artist would have enjoyed the atmosphere outside the museum, he added.
"He would feel at home. It is a day that suits his way of being," Lorca said.
Pilar Abel, a 61-year-old psychic from Catalonia, says her mother had a relationship with the artist when she worked in Cadaques, a picturesque port where the painter lived for years.
If Abel is confirmed as Dali's only child, she could be entitled to 25 percent of the huge fortune and heritage of one of the most celebrated and prolific painters of the 20th century, the woman's lawyer Enrique Blanquez said.
Dali's estate, which includes properties and hundreds of paintings, is entirely in the hands of the Spanish state.
The Salvador Dali Foundation manages the estate and says it was worth nearly 400 million euros by the end of 2016.
'Delicately'Forensic scientists will take DNA samples from bone or tooth fragments from the grave where Dali is buried which will then be sent to Madrid to undergo the necessary tests.
To reach his remains, authorities will have to remove the slab weighing more than 1 ton that covers Dali's tomb.
The extraction of Dali's DNA "will be done very delicately," Miguel Domenech, a lawyer and member of the board of the Dali foundation told AFP.
The museum, a top tourist site that drew over 1.1 million visitors last year, was covered in some places with cloth to prevent drones from capturing images of the exhumation, which is expected to take several hours.
The Salvador Dali Foundation provided details of the exhumation at a press conference on Friday at 8 a.m.
Abel has already provided a saliva sample for comparison, and the results are expected within a matter of weeks.
In an interview with AFP last month, just days after a court ordered the exhumation, Abel said her grandmother told her she was Dali's daughter when she was seven or eight years old. Her mother admitted it much later.
Abel is from the city of Figueres, like Dali, and she said she would often see him in the street.
"We wouldn't say anything. We would just look at each other, but a glance is worth a thousand words," she said.
Born on May 11, 1904 in Figueres to a bourgeois family, Dali developed an interest in painting at an early age.
In 1922 he began studying at the Fine Arts Academy in Madrid where he developed his first avant-garde artistic ideas in association with poet Federico Garcia Lorca and the filmmaker Luis Bunuel.
Returning to Catalonia after 12 years, he invited French poet Paul Eluard and his Russian wife Elena Ivanovna Diakonova to Cadaques.
She became his muse – he gave her the pet name "Gala" – and remained at his side for the rest of her life.
They never had children. She died in 1982, seven years before Dali's death.