This is not a joke nor a painting but a real telephone receiver made by Salvador Dali (1904-1989) in the form of a lobster in 1936. In the early 1930s, Dalí promoted the idea of the Surrealist object, of which this is a classic example. The Surrealists valued the mysterious and provocative effect of such unexpected conjunctions. Dalí, in particular, believed that his objects could reveal the secret desires of the unconscious. Lobsters and telephones had strong sexual connotations for him, and he drew a close analogy between food and sex. He made this Lobster Telephone for Edward James, the British collector who was the most active patron of Surrealist artists in the 1930s, notably of Salvador Dali.
In 1981 the Tate Gallery Liverpool bought it for £ 19,000 ($42,940). Prior to the sale, in the 40s, this curious phone was at the house of Edward James in London where he used to host lots of artists or their relatives. At the beginning of the war, Elsa Schiaparelli's niece, Bianca, was staying at James' s house but the Italian designer warned James that she was a spy. When Italy declared war on Britain, the police came to the house and saw Bianca talking to a friend with this telephone. At the end of the conversation, she hung up saying "good bye, darling." They were so convinced that they had encountered a mad woman talking to a lobster that they left without questioning her."