Salvadore Dali in 1971
Picture taken on December 1971 of Spanish artist Salvador DaliAFP/GettyImages

A Spanish woman who claims to be secret daughter of famed surrealist artist Salvador Dalí is bringing a paternity suit against the Spanish state.

Maria Pilar Abel Martinez, 59, claims that Dalí had an affair with her mother Antonia in 1955. If true, this would have been nearly 20 years after Dalí married his wife Gala.

Martinez is demanding that traces of skin and hair left on Dalí's death mask be used for a DNA test. Her lawyers say that if the test does not go ahead, they may demand that the artist's body is exhumed.

Martinez, a professional tarot card reader, says she does not want a share in Dalí's estate, which is valued at billions of euros. The Spanish state was the sole beneficiary of Dalí's estate on his death in 1989.

"I am not interested in money. I just want to find out who I am," she said.

In papers supplied to the court, she states that Dalí and her mother became friends while Dalí was living in Cadaqués, Costa Brava. She says that the friendship, "became a secret romance and resulted in her birth".

Martinez says she was doubtful about the identity of her real father, because she never felt a part of her family, that her grandmother told her that she was the daughter of a "great painter", and that her mother told her that Dalí was her real father.

Martinez says that this revelation came in the presence of a nanny and others who have supplied statements in support of her case.

Martinez previously requested a DNA test of the same death mask in 2007. She did not receive a response. However, the son of Dalí's secretary Robert Descharnes, Nicholas Descharnes, says that the tests were carried out, but that there was not enough tissue to derive a result.