This work has been authenticated by Mme Jacqueline Matisse Monnier and the Association Marcel Duchamp.
This drawing is one of several preliminary sketches and over 150 notes that Duchamp prepared for the most elaborate and involved artistic project of his early years in Paris, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, 1915-23 (Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Katherine S. Dreier). Because the work was executed on the surface of two large rectangular plates of glass--the Bride's Domain above, and the Bachelors below--it is usually referred to simply as the Large Glass. Although Duchamp began assembling notes for this project in 1912, he did not begin its actual execution until he moved to America in 1915 (where he left the work in a state of intentional incompletion in 1923). Essentially, the Large Glass is a pseudo-lovemaking machine, one wherein the Bride above attracts and is pursued by nine sexually aroused male figures (Malic Molds as Duchamp identified them) in the Bachelor's Domain below.
Pendu Femelle is a drawing that seems to have been designed to probe the inner, mechanical workings of the Bride, whose basic appearance had already been determined in two paintings that Duchamp made during a sojourn to Munich in 1912: Mariée [Bride] and The Passage from Virgin to Bride (The Museum of Modern Art, New York). The present drawing bears a marked resemblance to elements contained within these paintings, particularly the semi-circular, crescent-shaped form at the top and, at the very bottom of both paintings, a line that departs from the lower extremity of the "wasp" (the ampoule-like shape in the center that Duchamp described in another note as her "sex cylinder") at a roughly 45-degree angle to the left. A thin tracery of the wasp can be seen within the diagram: the main trunk of her body splits into a decorative, tuning forklike shape at the summit (resembling a magneto) in a position that Duchamp calls the "mortise" (although he reminds himself that he should "look for the exact term"). He also says that the mortise should be "held by a bowl and permitting movement in all directions of the pole agitated by the air currents." Arturo Schwarz (the most assiduous chronicler of Duchamp's work) - who was the first to publish this diagram in facsimile accompanied by an English translation--claims that this drawing represents the "project for an unrealized detail of the Bride's Domain" (A. Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 3rd revised and expanded edition, Delano Greenidge Editions, New York, 1997, p. 585. See also A. Schwarz, ed., Notes and Projects for the Large Glass, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1969, the Pendu Femelle are notes 71 and 72). Yet Linda Henderson--who wrote the most detailed book on the scientific sources that Duchamp likely consulted in creating this work - has discovered that it more likely represents a diagrammatic view of the Bride's functioning apparatus, which, she was the first to observe, is similar in appearance to instruments associated with the science of meteorology, especially weather vanes, barometers and hygrometers (L. D. Henderson, Duchamp in Context: Science and Technology in the "Large Glass" and Related Works, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1998, pp. 121-22). This is a logical source, for the principle means of communication between the Bride and Bachelors are wind, gas and water, elements that can be accurately measured by means of these scientific devices.
Of course, it should be emphasized that none of the elements in the Large Glass were ever meant to "function"--either literally or figuratively. Even metaphorically, the Bachelors never manage to attain union with the Bride above, their ultimate lack of fulfillment just one more intentionally frustrating aspect of its design. Rather, the Large Glass represents the culmination of Duchamp's aesthetic and intellectual preoccupations in these years - the most recent technological inventions of the day, sexual opposition, chance operations, higher dimensional geometry, playful physics, objects already made - themes that would in varying ways all find their application in his conception and design of this masterwork, unquestionably the most intricate, complex and innovative work produced by any artist in this period.
Duchamp always planned for his notes to be consulted by viewers of the Large Glass, so they could decipher its circuitous meanderings in a systematic and logical fashion. At first, he envisioned their publication in the form of a large sales catalogue, but he eventually decided to publish them in facsimile, each note painstakingly replicated to simulate the appearance of the original. In 1934, he issued 320 copies of the so-called Green Box, a green-flocked container in which 93 notes, drawings and photographs of works used in making the Large Glass were placed at random. André Breton was among the first to consult this publication in an effort to interpret this work, which he memorably described as "the trophy of a fabulous hunt through virgin territory" (A. Breton, "Phare de La Mariée," Minotaure, no. 6, Winter 1935, p. 46; English translation: "Lighthouse of the Bride," View, V, no. 1, March 1945, p. 7). Twenty years later, Breton would continue to question Duchamp on the specific meaning of certain elements within the Large Glass, as when he asked about how the Pendu femelle conjured up the essence of a fourth dimension. "The Bride or the Pendu Femelle is a 'projection' comparable to the projection of a four-dimensional 'imaginary being' in our three-dimensional world (and also in the case of the flat glass, to a re-projection of these three dimensions onto a two-dimensional surface)," he explained in a letter sent to Breton in 1954 (Letter from Duchamp to Breton, October 4, 1954, published in Medium, no. 4, January 1955, p. 33; quoted in L. Henderson, Duchamp in Context, 100n, p. 270).
The deluxe edition of the Green Box was distinguished from the regular run by the addition of a large letter M cut from a thin copper sheet and attached to the cover, matched by a letter D on the verso (forming, of course, the artist's initials), but each also included an original note or drawing. Outside of being attached by a paperclip to its facsimile, these originals were not otherwise identified. The drawing of the Pendu Femelle was enclosed in a deluxe edition of the Green Box (evidenced by the residue left by the paperclip at the top), but like many of these drawings and notes, it was long ago separated from the box that contained it.