Marcel Duchamp Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics) Paris, 1925

  • Not on view

Back in Paris after World War I, Duchamp experimented with machines that produced optical effects, work he had begun in New York. When this machine 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 Selavy et moi esquivons les ecchymoses des esquimaux aux mots exquis (Rrose Selavy and I dodge the Eskimos’s bruises with exquisite words).

Gallery label from 2011.

In Paris Duchamp returned to his interest in precision optics—experiments with machines that produced optical effects—which had begun in New York. Here a dome was painted with an asymmetrical series of concentric circles and mounted on a spinning disk. When the machine is set in motion, the circles appear to pulsate toward the viewer. The copper ring around the dome’s circumference is engraved with words chosen for the way their sounds echo one another. "RROSE SÉLAVY ET MOI ESQUIVONS LES ECCHYMOSES DES ESQUIMAUX AUX MOTS EXQUIS," or "Rrose Sélavy and I dodge the eskimos' bruises with exquisite words.")

Gallery label from Dada, June 18–September 11, 2006.
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
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp
Department
Painting and Sculpture

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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