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Why Not Sneeze, Rose Sélavy?

Marcel Duchamp, American (born France), 1887 - 1968

Date:
1921

Medium:
Painted metal birdcage, wood, marble cubes, porcelain dish, thermometer, cuttlebone

Dimensions:
4 7/8 x 8 3/4 x 6 3/8 inches (12.4 x 22.2 x 16.2 cm)

Copyright:
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp

Curatorial Department:
Modern Art

* Gallery 182, Modern and Contemporary Art, first floor (Stroud Gallery)

Accession Number:
1950-134-75a--e

Credit Line:
The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950

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Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Marcel Duchamp's concept of the "Readymade" suggested that an artist could select an ordinary object, present it as one's own, and declare it a work of art. His innovation was certainly among the most scandalous and significant transformations to the history of modern art. This work is what Duchamp called an "assisted Readymade," in which the original object is altered by the artist. Its meaning is one of the most elusive among his many puzzling creations. The title, inscribed on the bottom of the cage in black adhesive tape, poses its enigmatic question in English. It is posed to, or perhaps by, Rose Sélavy, the female alter ego Duchamp devised for himself (and a pun, in French, for "Eros is Life"). The painted metal birdcage is "assisted" by the addition of marble "sugar" cubes that almost fill it, two small porcelain dishes, a mercury thermometer, and a cuttlebone. Its full delight only comes with use, as one is surprised by the weightiness of the marble, expecting the lightness of sugar. Ann Temkin, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 317.
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    The commonplace objects that Duchamp chose as "Readymade" works of art epitomized the artist's belief that art should go beyond the visual and appeal to the mind as well as the senses. Duchamp began signing and giving titles to mass-produced items after he moved to New York in 1915, beginning with a snow shovel purchased in a hardware store. Why Not Sneeze, Rose Sélavy? was the last Readymade Duchamp produced. The title, inscribed on the bottom of the birdcage in black adhesive tape, poses an enigmatic question in English. It is posed to, or perhaps by, Rose (later Rrose) Sélavy, the scandalous female alter ego Duchamp devised for himself (and a pun, in French, for "Eros, such is life"). The painted metal birdcage is "assisted" by the addition of 152 white marble "sugar" cubes, a mercury thermometer, a piece of cuttlebone, and a tiny porcelain dish. Its full delight comes only with use, as one is surprised by the weight of the marble, expecting the lightness of sugar lumps. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 48.


* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.

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