The Collection of Robert Shapazian
During the spring of 1937, as Duchamp was in the process of assembling items for his Boîte-en-valise (see lot no. 132), he came up with an idea to help fund the project by issuing five hand-colored pochoirs prints of select paintings that would be included in the work. In the end, he produced only two: one of his famous Nu descendant un escalier no.2 (Nude Descending a Staircase No.2) and another of his Mariée (Bride).
The differences that exist between an original and its copy are not only concerns that affect the world of art today, but they have always been matters of critical importance within the legal profession. Duchamp was keenly aware of this fact, for his father had worked as a notaire, first serving in the hamlet where he was born and raised, Blainville-Crevon. The young Duchamp would have had many opportunities to witness the activities of his father, who was frequently called upon to authenticate the validity of legal documents, deeds, trusts, real estate transactions, and property settlements. After these papers had been carefully reviewed, the notary applies his signature over the surface of a small-denomination timbre fiscal, or an excise, revenue or fiscal stamp (a practice still widely followed in France until quite recently), thereby diminishing the potential for forgery and elevating the status of a document to legal tender. Duchamp followed this very procedure when he issued the Monte Carlo Bond in 1924 (see lot no. 135), and he used it again in producing these deluxe, hand-colored pochoirs of his earlier paintings. He was, in effect, following the same method utilized by his father, but here ingeniously validating the authenticity and faithful reproduction of his own work (F. Naumann, "Money is No Object," Art in America, March 2003, pp. 67-68).
Duchamp planned to produce as many as 500 examples of each work, but in the end seems to have made somewhere between 250 to 300. Initially, he thought that Julien Levy--the dealer in New York who had just sold the original painting of the Mariée to Walter Arensberg--would help him to sell these pochoirs at a retail price of $1 each. Levy, however, managed to find only a few buyers. The majority of these signed and stamped pochoirs remained in the dealer's possession until his death in 1981. A handful were sold in his estate sale held in Paris in 2004, although it seems that most of the others in the edition were either lost or destroyed.