Duchamp's Window Display for
André Breton's Le Surréalisme
et la Peinture

by Thomas Girst

Maria Martins

Click to enlarge
Figure 39
Marcel Duchamp, Coffee Mill, 1911

We already know Maria Martins purchased Magritte's Le Modèle Rouge on Duchamp's advice.  Their love affair has been well-documented elsewhere (30) . Duchamp would make sure that important works would end up in her collection, just like his Coffee Mill of 1911 (Fig.39), whose importance for his oeuvre he often praised in interviews once it was hers. Breton, of course, knew Maria Martins as well (31) and so did Enrico Donati (32) . Before Marcel Duchamp married Teeny in 1954, it was Maria Martins who was the Bride, enfin arrivée – she had finally arrived (33) , married to another man.

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Figure 40
Marcel Duchamp, Study for Given: 1. The Waterfall / 2. The Illuminating Gas, 1947

It is time now to devote our full attention to the wire sculpture below the "paper fall," below the "Bride's veil." In her letter to her husband, Isabelle Waldberg claimed it was hers and it closely resembles her "constructions" of the time. Yet, as she herself wrote, "Marcel naturally did everything." Only two years before the first known sketches (Fig.40) (34) of the female Figure for Given and at a time when Duchamp was already involved with Maria Martins, Waldberg's skeletal wire sculpture bears a close resemblance to the strangely distorted body of Given: the head and one arm hidden, the other outstretched, legs spread far apart, one straight and the other sharply bent at the knee, the triangle of genitalia exposed (35) :



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This animation by Robert Slawinski involves the five following unaltered works by Duchamp in the order in which they are listed below:

Window Display for Andre Breton's Le Surréalisme et la Peinture, 1945
Given: Maria, the Waterfall, and the Illuminating Gas, 1947
Study for Given: 1. The Waterfall / 2. The Illuminating Gas, 1947
The Illuminating Gas and the Waterfall, 1948-49
Given: 1. The Waterfall / 2. The Illuminating Gas, 1946-1966

For Duchamp's initial introduction of Given in 1945, there could not have been a better setting than a shop window, a work secretly linking Maria Martins to Marcel Duchamp, inextricably bringing the two together in this primal hint at Given's appearance, a work that would occupy Marcel Duchamp during the next twenty years until shortly before his death. In a note written in 1913 and published in A l'Infinif, his White Box of 1967, appearing a year after Given's completion, Duchamp had unmistakably alluded to the forbidden erotic sensation of the shop-window, the round trip rendez-vous of onlookers and objects, the orgasm through a sheet of glass, the consummation achieved by breaking it, silhouettes emerging.

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Figure 41
Figure 42
Marcel Duchamp, Note from A'Linfinitif (White Box),
1967 (1913)

The question of shop windows:.
To undergo
The interrogation by shop windows:.
The necessity of the shop window:.
The shop window proof of existence of the world
outside:. –
            When undergoing the interrogation
by shop windows, you also pronounce ]
your own judgment Condemnation.
In fact, the choice is a round trip. From
the demands of shop windows, from the
inevitable response to shop windows,
the conclusion is the making of a choice.
No obstinacy, ad absurdum, : in hiding
this coition through a sheet of glass
with one or more of the objects in the
shop window .The penalty consists in
cutting the glass and in kicking yourself
as soon as possession is consummated.
q.e.d. –
Neuilly . 1913  (36)


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30. Calvin Tomkins, Duchamp: A Biography, New York: Henry Holt, 1996, pp. 353-373; Francis M. Naumann, "The Bachelor's Quest," Art in America, September 1993, pp. 72-81, 67-69; also see footnote (27).

See Francis M. Naumann, Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Abrams: 1999, p. 174 (footnote 37). For a solo-exhibition of the artist at the Julian Levy Gallery in1947, Breton contributed an essay on Martins' sculptures (see Francis M. Naumann, Maria: The Surrealist Sculptures of Maria Martins, New York: André Emmerich Gallery, 1998 [exh. cat.], pp. 42-44). On the occasion of the Surrealist Intrusion in the Enchanters' Domain exhibition in New York, 1960, it was Duchamp (contributing, among others, his coin sale behind chicken wire) who urged Breton to include a work of Maria Martins in the catalogue, "on a single page" (see: Naumann, Francis M. and Hector Obalk (eds.), Affectionately, Marcel. The Selected Correspondence of Marcel Duchamp, Ghent/Amsterdam: Ludion, 2000, p. 368).

Francis M. Naumann, "Marcel & Maria," p. 157, footnote 24.

Ibid., p. 103.

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Footnote 34.1
Marcel Duchamp, Lazy Hardware, 1945
Footnote 34.2
Marcel Duchamp, For Sitting Only, 1957

34. This second study for Given depicts a waterfall running through the legs of headless female, leading Duchamp scholar Herbert Molderings to the conclude that Duchamp first perceived of Given's Figure as a pisseuse, standing upright. To him, therefore, another shop window of 1945 is of crucial importance: Duchamp's installation for Breton's Arcane 17 at the Gotham Book Mart in April (conversation with the author, November 24, 2001). Within the window, Duchamp uses a mannequin to whose bare leg a faucet is attached. In this respect, Duchamp's little-known wedding gift to Julien and Jean Levy becomes more significant. For Sitting Only was presented at the wedding on January 20th, 1957, in Bridgewater, Connecticut. It is a toilet seat to which seven falsies – nipples painted pink - are affixed, leaving space for the legs of the "sitter." The falsies, of course, were the same ones used in collaboration with Enrico Donati for the deluxe edition of Le Surréalisme en 1947 (for a first reproduction and brief description of the work, see: Jennifer Gough-Cooper and Jacques Caumont, "Ephemerides," n. pag. [20 January 1957]).

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Footnote 35.1
Marcel Duchamp, In the Manner of Delvaux, 1942
Footnote 35.2
Paul Delvaux,
In the Manner of Delvaux
, 1942

35. In a telephone conversation with Michel Waldberg (see footnote 11), the son of the artist is convinced that the lost sculpture was one of his mother's, suggesting that Duchamp might have chosen it because of the likeness to what he secretly had in mind. The material used in Waldberg's sculpture cannot be clearly defined, however. Hans Christoph von Tavel's Isabelle Waldberg: Skulpturen 1943-1980 (Bern: Kunstmuseum Bern, 1981 [exh. cat.]) states that all of her New York "constructions" were made of bent twigs, with wire "constructions" only appearing in her oeuvre upon Waldberg's return to Europe in 1946 (p. 10). Both wire and wood would have suited Duchamp well. Given's torso rests on tree branches and he often referred to the Bride in his Large Glass as "arbor type", with its roots in "the skeletal part of the bride" (see: Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson (eds.), The Writings of Marcel Duchamp, New York: Da Capo, 1989, pp. 42, 43). Already in 1942, Duchamp had made the small collage In the Manner of Delvaux, showing a female breast appearing in a mirror. This image itself was a detail appropriated from Paul Delvaux's painting Dawn, 1937, in which four women, naked from the waist up, seem to emerge from solid tree trunks (see Arturo Schwarz, Complete Works, p. 224).

from: Marcel Duchamp: In the Infinitive - A Typotranslation by Richard Hamilton and Ecke Bonk of Marcel Duchamp's White Box, Northend: The Typosophic Society, 1999, pp.5-6 (translated from the French by Jackie Matisse, Richard Hamilton and Ecke Bonk).

Figs. 39-42, Footnote 34, 35
©2002 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris. All rights reserved.