Constructed by a carpenter in accordance with Duchamp's instructions, Fresh Widow is a reduced scale version of the traditional floor-length French window. Duchamp covered the glass panes with panels of black leather, obstructing the metaphorical view through the window that is associated with illusionistic painting. With the change of three letters, Duchamp transforms "French window" into the title "Fresh Widow," a pun that points to the recent war and the bawdy tradition of amorous (or "fresh") widows of soldiers. The inscription at the base, "COPYRIGHT ROSE SELAVY 1920," is the first time the name of Duchamp's female alter ego appears on one of his works.
Gallery label from Dada, June 18–September 11, 2006.
This is a small replica of a traditional French window. The glass panes are covered with black leather that Duchamp insisted "should be shined every day like shoes." With the inscription along the base, Duchamp turned an inanimate French window into an anthropomorphic "Fresh Widow," which was, he felt, "an obvious enough pun."
Gallery label from 2006.
Constructed by a carpenter in accordance with Marcel Duchamp’s instructions, Fresh Widow is a small version of the double doors commonly called a French window. Duchamp was fascinated by themes of sight and perception; here, the expectation of a view through windowpanes is thwarted by opaque black leather, which Duchamp insisted “be shined everyday like shoes.” Windows had an important place in the artist’s work. He stated, “I used the idea of the window to take a point of departure, as…I used a brush, or I used a form, a specific form of expression…. I could have made 20 windows with a different idea in each one….”
Puns and wordplay were also central to Duchamp’s work. By changing a few letters, Duchamp transforms “French window”—which the work resembles in form—into “Fresh Widow,” a reference to the recent abundance of widows of World War I fighters.