MARCEL DUCHAMP (1887-1968)
MARCEL DUCHAMP (1887-1968)
MARCEL DUCHAMP (1887-1968)
6 More
MARCEL DUCHAMP (1887-1968)
9 More
THE SURREALIST WORLD OF ROSALIND GERSTEN JACOBS AND MELVIN JACOBS
MARCEL DUCHAMP (1887-1968)

Feuille de vigne femelle

Details
MARCEL DUCHAMP (1887-1968)
Feuille de vigne femelle
signed and inscribed 'exemplaire RozMel et toujours affectueusement Marcel N.Y. 1959' (on the underside); marked 'Feuille de vigne femelle 1950 2⁄10' (on the back)
painted plaster
3 1⁄2 x 5 3⁄8 x 4 3⁄4 in. (8.9 x 13.6 x 12 cm.)
Conceived in 1950; this plaster version cast from the galvanized plaster original and painted by Man Ray in 1951
Provenance
Acquired from Man Ray by the late owners, circa 1957.
Literature
Le Surréalisme, même, no. 1, Paris, 1956 (another version illustrated on the cover).
R. Lebel, Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1959, p. 175, no. 196 (original galvanized plaster version illustrated, pl. 120).
P. Hulten, ed., Marcel Duchamp: Work and Life, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1993, p. 134 (original galvanized plaster version illustrated in color).
C. Tomkins, Duchamp: A Biography, New York, 1996, pp. 377 and 385 (another cast illustrated, p. 386).
D. Ades, N. Cox and D. Hopkins, Marcel Duchamp, London, 1999, p. 185, no. 145 (another cast illustrated).
A. Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 2000, vol. II, p. 797, no. 536b (original versions illustrated; another cast illustrated in color, p. 417, pl. 201).
F. Naumann, The Recurrent, Haunting Ghost: Essays on the Art, Life and Legacy of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 2012, pp. 190-198 (another cast illustrated, pp. 190, 193-195 and 198).
Exhibited
New York, Zabriskie Gallery, Conspiratorial Laughter: A Friendship, Man Ray and Duchamp, February-April 1995, p. 44, no. 47 (illustrated, p. 40).
New York, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Inner Self, February-March 1998.
Miami, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sweet Dreams and Nightmares: Dada and Surrealism from the Rosalind and Melvin Jacobs Collection, March-May 2000, no. 5 (illustrated in color).
New York, Pace/MacGill Gallery, The Long Arm of Coincidence: Selections from the Rosalind and Melvin Jacobs Collection, April-May 2009 (illustrated in color).
New York, Kasmin Gallery, Brancusi & Duchamp: The Art of Dialogue, September-December 2018 (illustrated in color, p. 221).
Post lot text
The Association Marcel Duchamp has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

Filled with a rich sensuousness, Feuille de vigne femelle is one of an important series of sculptures created by Marcel Duchamp during the early 1950s, in which the artist expressed his enduring fascination with the erotic. Along with Not a Shoe of 1950, Objet-Dard of 1951 and Coin de chasteté of 1954, this group marked Duchamp’s public return to artmaking after his infamous declaration almost a quarter-century earlier that he was abandoning his artistic career in order to devote himself to chess. In fact, these sculptures had their roots in a secret project Duchamp had been working on for several years, a sculptural tableau known as Étant donnés: 1. La chute d’eau. 2. Le gaz d’éclairage, now in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Described by the artist as a “sculpture-construction,” this large, complex multi-media installation had a long gestation period, gradually evolving over the course of two decades, before being revealed to the public in 1969, after the artist’s death.

Viewed through two carefully placed peepholes in an old barn door, the mysterious Étant donnés offers a glimpse into a seemingly idyllic landscape in which a naked female form reclines, her body entirely exposed to the viewer as she lies on a bed of grass and twigs. While the final mannequin for the installation was constructed using a metal framed plaster form covered in leather, the sinuous curves of the body were apparently modelled using casts of the body of the Brazilian artist Maria Martins, Duchamp’s lover during the late 1940s. The pair had taken lessons in life casting together in 1946, studying under the sculptor Ettore Salvatore at Columbia University. Over the ensuing years Duchamp returned to the process repeatedly in order to capture Martins’ form, combining it with elements of hand modelling, to achieve the desired shape. Feuille de vigne femelle was directly inspired by these plaster studies—though there has been much scholarly debate as to the genesis of the sculpture, with some believing it was cast from life, the contours of Feuille de vigne femelle fit perfectly with a fragment of another casting found in the artist’s studio, suggesting the form was taken from this object (see M.S. Meighan, “A Technical Analysis of the Figure in Marcel Duchamp’s Étant donnés,” Étant donnés, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2009, fig. B.27a and B27b).

With their cleverly punning titles, each of the “Erotic Objects” from the early 1950s demonstrates the importance of word-play in Duchamp’s oeuvre—in Feuille de vigne femelle, for example, he creates a deliberately ironic juxtaposition between the title “fig leaf,” which conjures associations of concealment and modesty, and the actual subject of the sculpture, namely the highly erotic casting of the most intimate parts of the female body. Provocatively revealing that which would typically be disguised or hidden from view by such a fig leaf, the sculpture boldly offers an apparently three-dimensional imprint of the vulva. The uninhibited sexuality of the sculpture was at the forefront of Duchamp’s mind when he chose an ambiguous photograph of Feuille de vigne femelle as the cover image for an issue of the journal Le Surréalisme, même in 1956, edited by André Breton. Selecting a photograph in which the lighting suggestively inverts the concave profile of the work, allowing it to appear voluptuously convex, Duchamp played with the relationship between the positive and negative imprint of the casting to masterful effect.

Roz had first come across Feuille de vigne femelle while visiting Man Ray’s studio during a business trip to Paris. The artist explained that Duchamp had given him a small package when he came to say goodbye just before Man Ray caught a boat from New York to return to Europe, instructing him to make a set of ten casts from the sculpture. Using the galvanized plaster from Duchamp, which was one of a pair the artist had created in 1950, Man Ray supervised the creation of ten plaster casts, painting each in a bronze-like hue. Captivated by the sensuous forms of the painted plaster, Roz purchased the small erotic object and brought it home with her to New York, where she proudly displayed it in the living room. Later, at a party in their apartment, a musician guest mistook the sculpture for an ashtray, and used it to stub out a cigarette. The next morning, Roz was horrified to discover the way the artwork had been treated and immediately called Duchamp to explain. The artist arrived at the apartment shortly thereafter to examine the piece and, amused at what he saw, declared the sculpture "improved." In addition, he left an inscription on the underside of the work, blending Rosalind and Melvin’s names together to create a typically Duchampian sobriquet: “exemplaire RozMel et toujours affectueusement Marcel, N.Y. 1959.”

More from The Surrealist World of Rosalind Gersten Jacobs and Melvin Jacobs

View All
View All