Lot 38
  • 38

Marcel Duchamp

1,250,000 - 1,750,000 USD
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  • Marcel Duchamp
  • Signed Marcel Duchamp, signed with Duchamp’s pseudonym Rrose Sélavy and also inscribed by Duchamp en collaboration avec Man (lower left); signed Man Ray, dedicated by Man Ray à André Breton (lower right)
  • Pen and ink, airbrushed ink, photograph heightened with pencil and collage on paper
  • 11 3/4 by 8 in.
  • 29.9 by 20.2 cm


Man Ray

André Breton, Paris (a gift from the above)

Arturo Schwarz, Milan (acquired from the above in 1964)

Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, Lausanne (acquired from the above in 1964)

Acquired from the above by the present owner


Paris, Galerie Goemans, Exposition des Collages (curated by Louis Aragon), 1930, no. 9

Milan, Galleria Schwarz, Omaggio a Marcel Duchamp, 1964, no. 20, illustrated in the catalogue

Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Dada, 1966, no. 60, illustrated in the catalogue

London, Tate Gallery, The Almost Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 1966, no. 142, illustrated in the catalogue

Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art; New York, The Museum of Modern Art & Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, Marcel Duchamp, 1973-74, no. 139, p. 294, illustrated in the catalogue [incorrectly as inscribed 1964]

New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 20th Century American Drawing: Three Avant-Garde Generations, 1976, no. 37

Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, L'Œuvre de Marcel Duchamp, 1977, no. 128, p. 102, illustrated in the catalogue [incorrectly catalogued as photo-collage - facsimile]

Barcelona, Fundació Joan Miró; Madrid, Sala de Exposiciones de la Caja de Pensiones & Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Duchamp, 1984, no. 108

Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, André Breton, La beauté convulsive, 1991, p. 154, illustrated in the catalogue

Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Marcel Duchamp, 1993, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Robert Lebel, Sur Marcel Duchamp, Paris, 1959, listed under no. 149, p. 170

Arturo Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1969, no. 271, p.484-485

Arturo Schwarz, Man Ray, The Rigour of Imagination, London, 1977, fig. 383, p. 244, illustrated; fig. 50, p. 48, illustration of Duchamp’s perfume bottle on the cover of New York Dada magazine, 1920

Gloria Moure, Marcel Duchamp, London & Barcelona, 1988, no. 99, illustrated

Arturo Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1997, vol. I, mentioned pp. 212-218; vol. II, no. 386, illustrated p. 687 [as: Imitated Rectified Readymade / collage]

Francis M. Naumann, Marcel Duchamp, The Art of making art in the age of mechanical reproduction, New York, 1999, pp. 85-86, discussed; p. 87, fig. 3.47, illustration of Man Ray’s photograph of the present work

Gloria Moure, Marcel Duchamp, Works, Writings, Interviews, Barcelona, 2009, illustrated p. 84

Francis M. Naumann, The Recurrent, Haunting Ghost: Essays on the Art, Life and Legacy of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 2012, pp. 98-103, for a discussion devoted to La Belle Haleine; p. 105, mentioned


Good condition. Executed on thick cream wove paper and T-hinged to the mount at the reverse of the top two corners. There are three small repaired tears at the top edge and on at the lower right corner, not visible when framed. On the reverse of the sheet there is some minor abrasions mainly at the upper edge caused by tape removal and some tape remnants on the lower right edge. Apart from some very minor spots of foxing mainly towards the center right edge, some discolouration on all four edges, and some staining to the upper edge, this work is in good condition.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

An emblem of the Dadaist double-entendre, the present work was conceived by Duchamp and executed under his supervision and with the assistance of Man Ray.   This composition is an exceptionally rare and unique Dada work from a critical moment in Duchamp's development.  In 1920, Duchamp returned from Paris to New York, and the following winter of 1920-21 was to be a highly productive period in his career, during which he executed several pivotal works including Dust Breeding, Fresh Widow, Rotary Glass Plates and Belle Haleine, Eau de Voilette.  This period was also characterized by a fruitful collaboration between Duchamp and Man Ray, which resulted in a number of iconic works. The two artists had met in 1915 and worked closely together at various points of their careers.


In the present work, the collaboration between the two artists took multiple forms: the photograph of Duchamp, wearing a wig and dressed as a woman, is one of a series of Man Ray’s photographs depicting Duchamp’s alter-ego Rose Sélavy; Man Ray executed the lettering of the label, making use of the skills learned in his graphic art education.  Furthermore, Man Ray has applied the background colour of the bottle by spraying ink using the airbrush technique, which he had mastered and perfected in New York in 1918-19.

It was also through this collaboration that the character of Rrose Sélavy, created by Duchamp, became visually manifest.  Having first used this name inscribed on Fresh Widow of 1920, Duchamp asked Man Ray to take several photographs of him dressed as a woman.  Thus the image of Rrose Sélavy was born, and Duchamp continued using this pseudonym over the following decades.  The name Rrose Sélavy is usually interpreted as a pun that sounds like ‘Eros c’est la vie’ (‘Eros, that’s life’).

Francis M. Naumann wrote about the genesis of the present work: ‘In the early months of 1921, Duchamp decided that Rrose Sélavy would be the ideal name under which to launch a new brand of perfume, one that would be distributed between New York and Paris (just as he himself oscillated between these two city centers).  First he needed to design a label for the bottle, so he affixed a small [photograph] of Man Ray’s Portrait of Rose Sélavy [fig. 1] to [a] sketch for a label, which, in accordance with Duchamp’s instructions, Man Ray skilfully inscribed with the name of a perfume BELLE HALEINE / Eau de Voilette [BEAUTIFUL BREATH / Veil Water].  The resultant maquette was, in turn, photographed by Man Ray, who prepared a small print that Duchamp carefully attached to an actual bottle of Rigaud perfume [fig. 2]…  The finished bottle was then photographed by Man Ray [fig. 3], and a print was reproduced squarely on the front cover of New York Dada [fig. 4], a single-issue magazine edited and designed by Duchamp and Man Ray and released in April 1921’ (F. M. Naumann, op. cit., 1999, pp. 85-86).

Within the context of Duchamp’s readymades, the present work can be classified as an ‘imitated rectified readymade’. Naumann has defined this medium as ‘a readymade that is loosely based on a known and recognizable artefact but wherein some form of alteration or variation is introduced by the artist’ (ibid., p. 298).  The present work was made in preparation for the label that would be affixed to the readymade Rigaud perfume bottle, designed to imitate and replace the original label.  The original label bore the words ‘un air qui embaume’, which were replaced by the inscription ‘Belle Haleine, Eau de Violette’, an allusion to Belle Hélène, or Helen of Troy – yet another incarnation of the artist’s feminine persona; the initials of Rigaud, Paris were substituted with those of Rose Sélavy; ‘New York’ was added above the original ‘Paris’ – indicating the two cities where Duchamp (or Rose) lived; and the portrait on the original label was replaced by Man Ray’s photograph of Rose Sélavy, with the jawline, chin and lips heightened in pencil to emphasize the feminine appearance of the figure.  The original perfume label is thus transformed into a multitude of references to the artist’s own persona, reflecting the wit and playfulness that characterises Duchamp’s best work and that earned him a unique position in the world of modern art.


We would like to thank Andrew Strauss, co-author of the forthcoming catalogue raisonné on Man Ray, for his assistance with cataloguing this work.