"Dali described the genesis of this painting in his 1942 autobiography ... in which he claimed that the unforgettable limp watches were inspired by the remains of a very strong Camembert cheese. He had contemplated this cheese one evening after dinner, when he stayed at home with a headache while [his wife] Gala went to the cinema with friends.
Having meditated on the 'super-soft' qualities of the runny cheese, Dali went to his studio where he suddenly realized how he should finish a lonely landscape featuring the rugged cliffs of the Catalan coast, illuminated by a never-setting sun, which had been sitting on his easel awaiting inspiration."
I knew the atmosphere which I had succeeded in creating with this landscape was to serve as a setting for some idea, for some surprising image, but I did not in the least know what it was going to be ... "
Throughout his career Dali explored his fascination with softness and malleability in numerous paintings, sculptures and works on paper, ... however none has a more obvious sexual significance than the limp pocket watches in this painting. ..."Although Gala would prophetically claim that 'no one can forget it once he has seen it,'
The Persistence of Memory was left unsold when it was first shown in Paris. ... However the young American art dealer, Julien Levy, acquired the painting shortly after the close of the show, paying the trade price of a mere $250." Dawn Ades and Michael R. Taylor, Dali, Rizzoli, 2005, p. 148.