MARCEL DUCHAMP (1887-1968)
MARCEL DUCHAMP (1887-1968)

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2

Details
MARCEL DUCHAMP (1887-1968)
Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2
collotype with pochoir in colours, 1937, on wove paper, signed and dated 'Dec. 37' in black ink on a French 5-centimes revenue stamp
Image 350 x 200 mm., Sheet 350 x 200 mm.
Provenance
With Francis Naumann, New York.
Acquired from the above on 8 November 2016.
Literature
E. Bonk, Marcel Duchamp/The Portable Museum, New York, 1989, no. 10 (another impression illustrated).
F. M. Naumann, Marcel Duchamp, The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, New York, 2000, p. 135.
A. Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 2000, vol. 1, no. 458 (another impression illustrated).

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Eliza Heneage
Eliza Heneage

Lot Essay

Jacqueline Matisse Monnier and the Association Marcel Duchamp have confirmed the authenticity of this work.


'A nude never descends the stairs - a nude reclines'. This was the verdict of the Salon des Indèpendants hanging committee when they rejected Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, no. 2 (Philadelphia Museum of Art) for inclusion in the annual exhibition of 1912. That the jury included several leading members of the Parisian avant-garde, the artist's brothers Jacques Villon and Raymond Duchamp-Villon, as well as Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger, makes this reactionary statement all the more extraordinary. The controversy surrounding his painting, which drew together Cubo-Futurist interests in time and space, with time-lapse photography and modern cinema, was heightened by it's title. 'One just doesn't do a nude woman coming down the stairs, that's ridiculous', Duchamp later said, recalling the painting's chilly reception by his artistic contemporaries in 1912. 'It doesn't seem ridiculous now, because it has been talked about so much, but when it was new, it seemed scandalous. A nude should be respected.' When it was exhibited the following year at The Armory Show in New York, the painting created a sensation, scandalizing an American audience accustomed to a more deferential approach to the female nude. His subsequent rejection of painting by 1918, and adoption of the readymade, most famously the re-purposed porcelain urinal as art object Fountain 1917, confirmed Duchamp's notoriety as modern art's preeminent provocateur.

Duchamp's prerogative to blur distinctions of what is considered to be art, and what isn't, culminated in his famous De ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rrose Sélavy (La boîte en valise), a 'portable museum' containing diminutive reproductions and replicas of each of his works up to 1940. Made for La boîte en valise, this collotype facsimile of Nude Descending a Staircase, no. 2, with stencil-applied colouring, belongs to a small number of proof impressions issued apart from the published edition. Unvarnished, and with margins, these proofs are the only impressions of Nude Descending a Staircase, no. 2 signed by the artist. Duchamp mimicked the standard French practice of legally authenticating a document with the application of a postage stamp, signed by a notary, by signing and dating each impression on a 5-centimes stamp. In doing so he confounded assumptions of authenticity and originality, declaring a facsimile 'original' and 'authentic'.

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