Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
The Collection of Robert Shapazian
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

Prière de toucher

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
Prière de toucher
signed and dated 'Marcel Duchamp 1947' (lower right)
foam-rubber breast and black velvet on board
10 x 9 in. (25.4 x 22.9 cm.)
Executed in 1947. This work is unique.
Mary Sisler Collection, Palm Beach
Mrs. Catherine Perrot, Paris
Yves Arman, Paris
Private collection, Monte Carlo
Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 1991
R. Lebel, Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1959, p. 175, no. 191 and pl. 118 (illustrated).
A. Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, vol. II, New York, 1997, pp. 787-788, no. 523a.
P. Hulten, ed., Marcel Duchamp: Work and Life, Boston, 1993, p. 147, no. 1:3 (illustrated in color).
London, Tate Gallery, The Almost Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, June-July 1966, p. 74, no. 172 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

This work has been authenticated by Mme Jacqueline Matisse Monnier and the Association Marcel Duchamp.

In 1946, André Breton began plans for another international Surrealist exhibition, along the lines of those he had organized in 1938 in Paris, and in 1942 in New York. As for those two earlier shows, he enlisted Duchamp's help, who, among other things, agreed to design the cover of the catalogue. He decided that it should feature the image of a woman's bare breast encircled by a swathe of black velvet fabric bearing the provocative title PRIÈRE DE TOUCHER [Please touch], a request that was emblazoned in capital letters on a label attached to the back cover. For the regular edition, a black-and-white photograph of this subject was prepared in accordance with Duchamp's instructions by Rémy Duval (1907-1984), a photographer from Rouen best known for a book of nudes published in Paris in 1936 (R. Duval, 28 Études de Nus, Paris, 1936. Duval was also known for his photographs of artists in their studios, and later for his book Colmar, de las victoire á la liberation de Paris, 1945). For the deluxe edition, actual foam-rubber falsies were painted and glued to a light-pink cardboard cover by Ducahmp with the assistance of the Italian-born American painter Enrico Donati. "By the end we were fed up but we got the job done," Donati later recalled. "I remarked that I had never thought I would get tired of handling so many breasts, and Marcel said: 'Maybe that's the whole idea'" (J. Gough-Cooper & J. Caumont, "Ephemerides," entry for 5/17/47, quoted in P. Hulten, ed., Marcel Duchamp, Cambridge, 1993). Approximately a year later, when a copy of this catalogue was sent through the mails from Paris to Geneva, it was confiscated by the authorities, "not because of its contents, but [because] of its cover, which is considered 'immoral'" (Ibid.). This example is exceptional, for it was signed by Duchamp.

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