Lot 105
  • 105

Marcel Duchamp

400,000 - 600,000 EUR
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  • Marcel Duchamp
  • L.H.O.O.Q.
  • signed Marcel Duchamp and numbered 25/35 (lower left) and titled L.H.O.O.Q. (lower centre)
  • pencil and white gouache over a colour reproduction of the Mona Lisa, moustache and goatee added in pencil
  • 30.1 x 23 cm; 11 7/8 x 9 in.


Sale: Sotheby's, London, June 24, 2003, lot 240
Acquired at the above sale by Dr. Arthur Brandt


Boone, Turchin Center for the Arts, The Omnipotent Dream: Man Ray, Confluences and Influences, 2003, illustrated in the catalogue p. 20, listed p. 34
Ithaca, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, A Private Eye: Dada, Surrealism and More from the Brandt Collection, 2006, illustrated in the catalogue p. 35


Robert Lebel, Sur Marcel Duchamp, Paris, 1959, illustration of another version pl. 90
Arturo Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, London, 1997, vol. II, no. 369f, illustration of the original 1919 version p. 670
Francis M. Naumann, Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, New York, 1999, no. 8.75, illustration in colour of another example from the edition p. 247
Dreaming with Open Eyes: The Vera, Silvia and Arturo Schwarz Collection of Dada and Surrealist Art from the Israel Museum (exhibition catalogue), Jerusalem, Israel Museum & Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario and San Francisco, Legion of Honor, 2000-02, no. 193, illustration in color of another example pp. 91 and 151
The Beauty of Sanctity: Masterworks from Every Age (exhibition catalogue), Jerusalem, Israel Museum, 2005, illustration in color
Surrealism and Beyond in the Israel Museum (exhibition catalogue), Jerusalem, Israel Museum, 2007, illustration in color of another example pp. 226-227 and 276
Francis M. Naumann, The Recurrent, Haunting Ghost: Essays on the art, life and legacy of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 2012, fig. 8.11, illustration in colour of another example from the edition p. 89
Marcel Duchamp (exhibition catalogue), New York, Gagosian Gallery, 2014, illustration in color of another example pp. 48-49


Reproduction is not laid down, hinged to the backing board in two places along the upper edge. The sheet is slightly time-stained. There is a little nick to the centre of the right edge. The lower left corner has been repaired and thereare some scuffs on the verso relating to removal from a previous mount. There are two tiny spots of foxing along the lower edge. There is a repaired tear to the centre of the left edge. This work is in overall 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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note


In 1919, Duchamp purchased a cheap reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, the most famous and admired of the Louvre paintings, and erased the enigmatic smile with a moustache and beard sketched on the canvas like graffiti and beneath which he wrote five letters L.H.O.O.Q. Spoken out aloud, these letters spell out the sentence "Elle a chaud au cul" in French (She has a hot ass). For many, this act was considered the ultimate act of Dada iconoclasm. Duchamp made several replicas of this work and he produced the present edition in 1964, upon the request of his friend and dealer Arturo Schwarz, for the limited edition of Pierre de Massot's book Marcel Duchamp, Propos et souvenirs published in only 35 copies. Duchamp decided to return to the now iconic theme of L.H.O.O.Q. and purchased to this end 38 reproductions of the Mona Lisa (35 numbered examples accompanying each copy of the book by Pierre de Massot and three unnumbered copies, one for himself, one for Arturo Schwarz and one for Pierre de Massot).
Duchamp made the first version of L.H.O.O.Q. during the summer of 1919 upon his return to Paris where he saw Picabia and met Tristan Tzara, Pierre de Massot and Aragon. This provocative work was made thus in full Dadaist effervescence and its taste for provocation and hoax.
The choice of the Mona Lisa is far from banal. The fact that this mythical painting by Leonard da Vinci had become the ultimate symbol of sanctified, museum art did of course serve Marcel Duchamp's cause, and this all the more so because 1919 was the year of the 400th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci's death. By choosing the most famous artwork in the world, a national icon in France, Duchamp aimed to desacralize the work of art. As Marcel Duchamp explained himself, "in 1919, when Dada was in full swing, and we were tearing down many things, Mona Lisa was the first victim." (in Duchamp du signe, 1994). Duchamp's trivial title refers to a prior experience. Eight years before the creation of this Readymade, the theft of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre had marked people's minds. The beautiful woman's "escape" was dealt with humorously by the press, playing with Duchamp's title to imply her rear end was on fire. Beyond this reference to the theft of the Mona Lisa, Duchamp's work should be understood as a more general questioning of the ideal image of the married woman, a central subject of his art during the period when he was working on the Grand verre.
The theme of sexual ambiguity is also at the heart of this work, created shortly after Freud wrote Un souvenir d'enfance de Leonard de Vinci where he questions the artist's homosexuality. By transforming the Mona Lisa into a man, Duchamp echoes this theory, creating a hybrid creature, an androgynous ideal. The question of sexual identity is moreover at the core of Duchamp's artistic approach and he created his feminine double Rrose Sélavy, a source of evocative word play: "Eros c'est la vie" (Eros is life). Thus, beyond the provocative spirit behind the genesis of the work, L.H.O.O.Q. also allows for an understanding of one or Marcel Duchamp's essential concerns: his search for another identity.