From a modern point of view, astrology and alchemy are early forms of
our scientific thinking that are limited by superstition. To the historian
they appear as partial spheres of a uniform or holistic take on the
world. In recent times, it is surprising to note an aestheticizing return
to the era of "Kunst - und Wunderkammern" [editor's note: a curious
way in which art - often displayed from floor to ceiling - was exhibited
alongside odd objects, scientific instruments, archeological findings
and anatomical models] of early modern times. The exhibition, which
was staged at great cost (around $15 million) and labor under the mystical
title "7 Hills" at Berlin's Gropiusbau-Museum, entertains the
thought of an encyclopedic sum within which the knowledge of our times
is contained. It is true that while doing so, one risks losing one's
level-headedness, but via a more artistic approach one might also gain
a better understanding of the cosmos on a micro- as well as a macro-level.
In view of the euphoria of natural scientists to simultaneously have
deciphered the genome and the elementary particle, even winners of the
Nobel prize talk about a new mysticism. The four letters of the DNA
are supposedly nothing less than a re-formulation of the old four elements-fire,
water, earth, air. Furthermore, it is no coincidence that 12 fermions
exist in the standard model of the elementary particles. It might well
be that man, always striving for more knowledge, can only project new
versions of old prejudices, whose common structure lie in particular
The horoscope is
the portrait of the planets in the ecliptic. It is a clock that, unlike
ordinary time, is not restricted by the position of the Sun alone, but
also takes into account other celestial bodies-from Mercury, located
close to the Sun, to far away Pluto. These are astronomical facts; only
with our belief in a possible interpretation of this constellation,
ever-changes according to time and place, do we leave safe terrain and
enter the realm of superstition of historical traditions.
The 12 signs of the
zodiac are the projected combinations from the three areas (body, soul,
spirit) and the four elements, which since C.G. Jung can also be understood
as four functions (sense, feeling, thinking, will). Since the notions
are not unequivocal and diverge in different languages, various possibilities
of interpretation are always possible. One can thus designate the signs
according to the system of the religious philosopher from Vienna, Arnold
Keyserling, as follows: Aries: soul-will, Taurus: body-sense, Gemini:
spirit-thinking, Cancer: soul-feeling, Leo: body-will, Virgo: spirit-sense,
Libra: soul-thinking, Scorpio: body-feeling, Sagittarius: spirit-will,
Capricorn: soul-sense, Aquarius: body-thinking, Pisces: spirit-feeling.
Within this cosmic
human being, the planets create a structure that can be looked at as
a sort of grammar. Jupiter would be the "and" of the language, which
connects everything, Venus the noun, which is fixated upon the world
of the object, etc. Each human being has all the components of such
a systematic structure, a sort of ontology, different with each individual.
But here, we shall not pursue further any ethical inclinations. In this
sense, a horoscope can be anything-ranging from the "characteriologic"
analysis to the representation of a course of life.
With all of our knowledge
about Duchamp today, it does not make much sense to read Duchamp's horoscope
retro-prophetically as a potential life. The record would constantly
be set straight by biographical data. This a posteriori view
would not be very interesting. What one could try to accomplish however,
is to redraw the easily available course of his life by taking into
account the most important data. What was really important to him? And
how can one explain his ability to let the world in the dark about his
work? Every "house" (indicated by Roman numericals), beginning with
the ascendant to the left, lasts for seven years. That is, one moves
first through one's own horoscope under the horizon, until, at the beginning
of the 7th house (at the descendant right), one rises from the "night,"
and, with 42 years (6x7), one appears before the public. In their meaning,
the individual houses adhere to the respective state of development;
they are, however, present throughout the entire life (similar to the
genetic code, which is nowadays given more credence to. It is true that
it has been deciphered, but we are far from understanding it.) A horoscope
discloses that missed opportunities can hardly be taken up again. Life
goes on. One should not, for example, raise small children (5th house)
when one is in the 9th house (older than 63 years). One is not always
equally young or old; but everybody has the focal points of his or her
development at another place, so that not even these statements should
In the following,
we will restrict ourselves to the indicated data. Such a reading will
certainly be a very general one. Everybody who is interested in astrology
can further spin it out. Accordingly, planet Venus in the 10th house
in Virgo has manifold meanings within the frame of a certain spectrum.
Here though, this will be reduced to one location, namely 19.43 degrees,
that for MD is the year 1953. We will proceed in this manner with every
planet, and we will also consider the place directly opposite, that
is displaced by 180 degrees, in this case 1911. The point situated directly
opposite to one's own location represents the complementary goal in
The individual astrological
traditions differ considerably with regards to the tolerance of the
Aspects. These are the relations between the planets themselves. One
can compare them with the relation between notes that blend together
to more or less harmonious music. Generally, one assumes a tolerance
of 10 degrees between the planets, between a planet and the Sun or the
Moon respectively 12.30 degrees and between the Sun and the Moon 15
degrees. This may seem arbitrary, and it differs from other systems.
Opposition and conjunction (0 or 180 degrees respectively + tolerance,
yellow) are impulses that have to be controlled through Will; Square
(90 degrees, red) is feeling; Sextile (60, 120 degrees, green) = Sense;
semi-sextile and trigon (30, 150 degrees, blue) = Thought. Traditionally,
green is considered to be positive, red to be negative. It can also
be characteristic when two planets are not related through any Aspects.
Below, an abbreviated interpretive overview will be given, together
with a record of the planets throughout MD's life. All the planets are
located above the horizon. It is true that this is characteristic of
a public life, yet it is also characteristic of a late fame. Usually,
it is said that a horoscope, which does not enclose the center, is eccentric.
Focal points are the 7th house (community, society), with Neptune in
Taurus and Pluto in Gemini, as well as the 9th house (journey, ideas)
with Saturn in Cancer, the Sun in Leo and Mercury in Leo, as well as
the 11th house (friendships with the rich and famous, works) with Uranus
and Jupiter in Libra. From the viewpoint of the Aspects, most of it
is concentrated in the 9th house. This is why we are dealing with a
person destined for (journeys and) ideas, and less with an artist in
the traditional sense-the 2nd house (art, possession) is empty and in
Taurus, we find only Neptune, that is acquaintances. Venus in the 10th
house in Virgo is only connected through Aspects with 4 other planets.
Venus occupies a prominent spot in the house of the public and has no
negative Aspect. Since Venus is the creative force (and, from a mythological
stance, the goddess of love), we could start analyzing her first, asking
for the two corresponding moments.
Venus in Virgo in the 10th house: 1911 and 1953/4
During this year, Duchamp paints his most important paintings (family,
nudes, chess) in Blainville. The long-term project refers to the passage
from the "virgin" to the "Bride." The background or frame to these years
(opposite the goal) is the sign of Virgo. As the one formative incident
that enters with Venus one has to assume the wedding of his favorite
sister Suzanne in August. The inaccessibility of the "bride" will later
become a subject of the Large Glass. Almost exactly opposite,
that is 42 years later, in the 10th house, the 66 year-old MD marries
Alexina "Teeny" Matisse-Sattler in January of 1954. From the viewpoint
of the Aspects, it was a harmonious event. MD nevertheless manages to
portray himself publicly (10th house) as (male) virgin, as bachelor
(Venus). Only years later MD found out by chance that he had become
the father of a girl in 1911.
Moon in Scorpio in the 12th house: 1929
The female (the mother) is generally represented by the Moon. The Moon
also stands for the changeable and for (in the 12th house) regenerating
in seclusion. As one can see from the two squares in the 9th house to
Mercury and the Sun, this iridescent seclusion clashed with the self-confident
talk and his judgment of himself. Externally this became evident in
the 41st year (1929) of his life. This does not concern his short marriage
to Lydie Sarazin-Levassor since it was divorced just a year before.
Henry McBride asked the question why, in view of the "fat" bride and
her father's rather inadequate endowment, MD did not marry Kathy Dreier.
At the crucial moment (1929), MD met up with her and her friend Mrs.
Thayer to travel around Spain and Germany. Dreier saw in MD "another
side of me." She was probably the most important woman in his life,
gravely underestimated by his biographers, even though she did not understand
all the ideas (squares in the 9th house) of her "adopted son." The opposition
to Neptune in the 7th house brings forth the speculation that this friendship
would not have faired too well with his other public acquaintances.
Neptune in Taurus in the 7th house: end of 1931 / beginning of
Except the already mentioned inclination to leave people in the dark
about his relationships to women, MD obviously had many acquaintances
(Neptune), which were not least (favorable Aspects in the 9th house)
conducive to his journeys and ideas. In his vitae this talent manifested
itself officially when he wrote a chess book together with Vitaly Halberstadt
that was published in three languages during June of 1932 in Brussels.
This cooperation must have been important for him since it is also the
first planet he reaches in the horoscope (because so far the houses
were empty and the other mentioned planets stood opposite).
Mars in Cancer in the 8th house: 1940
The ruler of nativity (the regent of the ascendant Scorpio) is on good
terms with Venus and the Moon, but not so with Neptune. Next to the
Sun, the ruler of nativity is often seen as the most important planet
in a horoscope. Initiative as sublimated aggressiveness, the tendency
to keep searching for the roots (Cancer), has to be accepted here as
a principle. The square that points toward Uranus in the 11th house
indicates the longing for the intellectual dealing with the work for
which the foundation stone only is laid. In 1940, MD decides to start
working on his private museum-on his Boîte-en-Valise. From 1941
on, MD will, little by little, put the samples of the edition together
in seven series and publish them.
As mythological figure, Mars is naturally the god of war. Yet the German
occupation of Arcachon, to where MD had retreated together with Mary
Reynolds, his sister Suzanne and her second husband Jean Crotti, Salvador
Dalí and his wife Gala, scarcely seemed to have bothered him.
Uranus in Libra in the 11th house: 1915/16 and 1957/58
MD has a balanced (Libra) intellectual-dialectic relationship (Uranus)
to his friends (11th house) in society. The time during which his personality
(Aries) is emphasized-from 1913 to 1922-is determined by the Ready-mades.
When he arrives in New York as a twenty-seven-year-old, he becomes friends
with the Arensbergs. Directly opposite, 42 years later, the occupation
with his work takes place through dealings with the publishers of his
writings, George Heard Hamilton and Michel Sanouillet. He also meets
with his important biographer and interpreter, Robert Lebel.
Jupiter in Libra in the 11th house: 1921 and 1963
The second planet in this house of the lifework is Jupiter. Jupiter
stands for the capability of synthesis. What is better to announce an
oeuvre than bringing works together in a big personal exhibit? MD is
already 76 years old and only now is he offered this exhibit in Pasadena.
42 years earlier, in the house of mastery (5th) of his personality (Aries),
MD brings about this synthesis in a completely different way than in
an accumulation of his works. Through his alter ego Rose Selavy he explores
the female side of his personality. The integrative force of Jupiter
can be rendered in many different ways. Particularly noteworthy is the
big tension to the conjunction of the three planets gathered in the
9th house, that is, to his ideas.
Saturn, Sun, Mercury in the 9th house in Cancer and Leo: 1943-1946
This is a big emotional conflict. Saturn as Authority, the Sun as Being,
and Mercury as rhetoric economy not only set up priorities of the entire
horoscope-so to speak the culmination of all his efforts-but they also
create a symbiosis of apparent crisis. MD is now generally perceived
as authority (Saturn) or in his mastery (Mercury and the Sun in Leo).
He is almost popular, in any case a legend. Not only does the magazine
"VIEW" dedicate an issue to him, but the Large Glass also appears
as prop for a fashion shoot on the cover of "VOGUE." There is an exhibit
of the three Duchamp-brothers, etc. The squares from here to Jupiter
and to the Moon display his yearning in two ways. On the one hand a
longing for a synthesis of his oeuvre, which he realizes through the
work on individual examples of the Boîte-en-Valise. On the other
hand, it is evident through the fulfillment of his female side, namely
in a sexual way (Moon in Scorpio) and through loneliness (Moon in 12th
house). Of utter importance here is his liaison with a Brazilian artist
and wife of an ambassador, Maria Martins, to whom he dedicates a personal
"valise." The "faulty landscape" within is painted with ejaculate.
Through this, one can grasp the ironic message of the proverbial bachelor,
who "grinds his own chocolate." The speculation is permitted that similar
things have happened 42 years before, directly opposite in the horoscope.
His work will from now on be restructured. He moves into a new studio
that he will use for the next 22 years, until the end of the sign of
Libra. From now on, he will come up ,in this modest studio with the
idea and realization of a sexualized, lonely woman (Moon in Scorpio
in the 12th house), that is Etant donnés. The model for her body
was Maria Martins, who soon was to disappear to Paris and Brazil, her
native country. She became for MD the bedded Maria, in memory
of the far-away Mariée.
Another chapter could be written on the allocation of cities. This differs,
however, according to the various schools of astrology. We will restrict
ourselves to note that New York as city of Neptune and Paris as city
of Venus agree with the corresponding meanings in the 7th and 10th house.