In 1921, Marcel Duchamp enlisted the assistance of Man Ray in creating his Belle Haleine/Eau de Voilette [Beautiful Breath/Veil Water], a perfume bottle that would feature his newly invented female alter-ego, Rose Sélavy. Man Ray began by photographing Duchamp dressed in drag, where Rose wears a hat (seductively pulled over her eyes), a posh coat and a pearl necklace. These images were then printed by Man Ray and used to prepare the layout of the bottle (for some years, he had worked for a map-and-atlas publisher in New York, and had acquired considerable skill as design and layout artist). From a bottle of Rigaud perfume that Duchamp had acquired, Man Ray already knew the size and format of the label, so he attached Rose's portrait at the top and, in accordance with Duchamp's instructions, directly below it hand-printed the words: BELLE HALEINE (in ascending and descending capital letters) and Eau de Voilette (in a flamboyant and expressive script). This was followed by the initials "RS" (the "R" presented backwards, as if to suggest Rose's dual identity) and, below that, New York and Paris (as if to suggest that this new product was being launched simultaneously onto the market in these two city centers).
The present work includes a photograph of Man Ray's layout, as well as a photograph of the finished bottle. Each print is signed with Man Ray's monogram, and the whole was matted with paper, upon which Duchamp wrote that these images were used in preparation for the cover of New York Dada, the single-issue periodical devoted to the Dada movement that Man Ray and Duchamp issued in New York in April 1921. Indeed, it was this magazine that premiered Rose's existence to the public, for the perfume bottle was emblazoned in the center of its cover surrounded by miniscule typed letters spelling out the words: "new york dada april 1921."