Lot 35
  • 35

Marcel Duchamp

50,000 - 70,000 GBP
161,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Marcel Duchamp
  • Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2
  • signed M. Duchamp and dated Dec. 37 (on the stamp)
  • pochoir-coloured reproduction and French 5-centimes stamp on paper
  • 35.3 by 20.1cm.; 13 7/8 by 7 7/8 in.


Acquired by David Bowie before 1992


Ecke Bonk, Marcel Duchamp, The Box in a Valise, de ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rrose Sélavy, New York, 1989;
Francis M. Naumann, Marcel Duchamp, The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, New York, 2000, p.135, illustrated fig.5.20 (another example);
Arturo Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 2000, vol. I, no.458, illustrated p.745 (another example).

Catalogue Note

In 1912 Marcel Duchamp executed one of his most radical and significant early works, the oil Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Painted in a loosely Cubo-Futurist style, its most striking aspect is the kaleidoscopic rendering of movement that Duchamp achieves. The artist later described it as representing, ‘the convergence in my mind of various interests, among others the cinema, still in its infancy, and the separation of static positions in the photochronography of Marey in France, Eakins and Muybridge in America [...] the anatomical nude does not exist, or at least cannot be seen, since I discarded completely the naturalistic appearance of a nude, keeping only the abstract lines of some twenty different static positions in the successive action of descending’ (quoted in Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia (exh. cat.), Tate Modern, London, 2008, p.17).

The painting was supposed to be exhibited in the year of its execution at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, but was withdrawn by Duchamp following critical comments from Albert Gleizes and other ‘hard-line’ Cubists who were suspicious of its literary title and unconventional approach to Cubism and suspected Duchamp of satirising the form. The following year Duchamp submitted it to the now-famous 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art – known as the Armory show – in New York, where it caused a sensation, establishing Duchamp at the forefront of the avant-garde.

By 1937 painting had long ceased to be a part of Duchamp’s artistic practice and he had turned his attention to the more radically experimental readymades. However, during the summer of 1937 Duchamp was prompted to create a miniature retrospective in the form of pochoir reproductions housed in his Boîte-en-Valise. The expense of commissioning the carefully prepared stencils and skilled hand-colouring led Duchamp to consider publishing an edition of 250 reproductions of each of the five chosen works. In the event, only Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 and The Bride were printed, and in such small editions that the exact number of prints are unknown. The question of authenticity and originality had long played a part in his conceptual works, and Duchamp brought these ideas to bear on the pochoir reproductions. It was standard practice in France when authenticating legal documents for the lawyer to apply a small-denomination postage stamp to the document and sign his name across it – a procedure of which Duchamp was well aware due to his father’s position as the notary of Blainville-Crevon. This resourceful method of preventing falsified documentation was carried out by Duchamp on each of the pochoir and distinguishes them as original and authentic works by the artist.