Marcel Duchamp Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics) Paris, 1925

  • MoMA, Floor 5, 508 The David Geffen Wing

Back in Paris after World War I, Duchamp continued the work he had begun in New York, experimenting with machines that produced optical effects. When Rotary Demisphere is set in motion, the circles appear to pulsate toward the viewer. The copper ring around the dome’s circumference is engraved with French words chosen for the way their sounds echo one another: Rrose Sélavy et moi esquivons les ecchymoses des esquimaux aux mots exquis (Rrose Sélavy and I dodge the Eskimos’ bruises with exquisite words). Rrose Sélavy was the name of Duchamp’s female alter ego, who first appeared in 1920.

Gallery label from 2020
Medium
Painted papier-mâché demisphere fitted on velvet-covered disk, copper collar with plexiglass dome, motor, pulley, and metal stand
Dimensions
58 1/2 x 25 1/4 x 24" (148.6 x 64.2 x 60.9 cm)
Credit
Gift of Mrs. William Sisler and Edward James Fund
Object number
391.1970.a-c
Copyright
© 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp
Department
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

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Provenance Research Project

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

Jacques Doucet (1853-1929), Paris/Neuilly [1]; by inheritance to Jeanne Roger-Doucet (Jacques Doucet's widow), Neuilly, 1929; given to Henri-Pierre Roché (1879-1959), Paris, 1930 [2]; by inheritance to Denise Roché (Henri-Pierre Roché's widow), Paris, 1959-c. 1961 [3]; Cordier & Ekstrom, New York; sold to Mary Sisler, New York, 1963 [4]; The Museum of Modern Art, New York (Gift of Mrs. William Sisler and Edward James Fund), 1970.

[1] Commissioned in 1924. See Schwarz 1997, no. 409.
[2] Scarlett et Philippe Reliquet, Henri-Pierre Roché: l'enchanteur collectionneur, Paris: Ramsay, 1999, pp. 201-02. Calvin Tomkins, Duchamp: A Biography, New York: Henry Holt, 1997, p. 295.
[3] Francis Naumann, Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Ghent and Amsterdam: Ludion Press, 1999, p. 214.
[4] Mary and William Sisler Papers, II.4. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York. Included in the exhibition Not Seen and/or Less Seen of/by Marcel Duchamp/Rrose Sélavy, 1904-1964. Mary Sisler Collection, Cordier & Ekstrom, New York, January 14-February 13, 1965 (no. 75).

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