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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

 Dali's trademark moustache is intact at '10 past 10' as he is exhumed for DNA  testing to prove whether this woman is his daughter

"I was very anxious about what I would see," said Narcis Bardalet, the forensic expert who embalmed Dali back in 1989 and who was at his grave the moment he was exhumed for DNA tests.

Is this the daughter of the celebrated artist Salvador Dali?  Pilar Abel, photographed in Madrid on July 19, 2017, claims she is the product of her mother's affair with Dali. The artist's body was exhumed on July 20, 2017 so DNA samples could be taken. Francisco Seco / AP
Is this the daughter of the celebrated artist Salvador Dali? Pilar Abel, photographed in Madrid on July 19, 2017, claims she is the product of her mother's affair with Dali. The artist's body was exhumed on July 20, 2017 so DNA samples could be taken. Francisco Seco / AP

Master of surrealism Salvador Dali's trademark moustache is in perfect shape in its "ten past ten" position, officials said on Friday, a day after his remains were exhumed to settle a paternity claim.

"I was very anxious about what I would see," said Narcis Bardalet, the forensic expert who embalmed Dali back in 1989 and who was at his grave the moment he was exhumed on Thursday night so that DNA samples could be taken.

"I was absolutely stunned. It was like a miracle...his moustache appeared at 10 past 10 and his hair was intact," Mr Bardalet said, referring to the positions of the hands on a clock.

The arduous task of exhumation involved removing a slab weighing more than a tonne that covered his tomb at the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueras in northeastern Spain where the eccentric artist was born.

Mr Bardalet was one of only a handful of people including a judge allowed to watch the removal of samples from Dali's remains.

"It was a moving moment for him and for us," said Lluis Penuelas Reixach, the secretary general of the Salvador Dali Foundation.

DNA samples were taken from Dali's hair, nail and two long bones. A court in Madrid last month granted Pilar Abel a DNA test to determine whether she is Dali's child, as she claims.

Ms Abel, 61, who worked as a psychic in Catalonia, says her mother had a relationship with the artist when she worked in Cadaques, a picturesque Spanish port where the painter lived for years. If Ms Abel is confirmed as Dali's only child, she could be entitled to 25 per cent of the huge fortune and heritage of one of the most celebrated and prolific painters of the 20th century, according to her lawyer Enrique Blanquez.

But the lawyer for the Dali Foundation's lawyer has indicated Ms Abel could end up with a big bill if her claims are proven false.

"If Pilar Abel is not Dali's daughter then we must ask this woman to reimburse the costs of the exhumation," said Albert Segura.

Before work in the crypt began on Thursday, mobile phones were put in a deposit box and a marquee installed under the museum's glass dome to prevent any photography or video from drones.

A crowd of onlookers gathered outside the elaborate museum of Dali's work to watch as police escorted the experts into the building, which is topped by a huge metallic dome decorated with egg shapes. Dali designed the building himself.

The Dali Foundation had tried to appeal against the exhumation, but there was not enough time for all parties to present their case, a court spokesman said. The foundation blasted the court's decision to order the exhumation, saying it was based solely on Ms Abel's claim that her mother once had a relationship with Dali.

Ms Abel has already provided a saliva sample for comparison and the results are expected within a matter of weeks. But the foundation maintains her DNA should have been compared to her brother's first, before carrying out an "invasive" exhumation of Dali's remains. If ms Abel's DNA matched her brother's, it would mean that they both had the same father - who was not Dali.

Dali's estate, which includes properties and hundreds of paintings, is entirely in the hands of the Spanish state.

The foundation says it was worth nearly 400 million euros ($460 million) at the end of 2016.