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  • "The idea of describing the movement of a nude coming downstairs while still retaining static visual means to do this, particularly interested me…The fact that I had seen chronophotographs of fencers in action and horses galloping gave me the idea for the Nude." —Marcel Duchamp

    In 1912 Marcel Duchamp submitted his latest painting, Nu descendant un escalier No. 2, to the avant-garde Salon des Indépendants in Paris. The exhibition’s jury, which included the artist’s brothers, immediately lambasted the work as an abomination to the sensuous genre stating ‘a nude never descends the stairs’…’a nude reclines’.  The semi-abstract painting, with its angular forms curiously multiplying in motion, provoked both the tenets of Cubism and the former conventions of the ‘respectable’ Nude.


    The painting was born from the artist’s multiplicity of interests, fractured forms, motion, velocity, the formation of cinema, including time-lapse motion studies, and philosophies of time and space. He said, ‘The idea of describing the movement of a nude coming downstairs while still retaining static visual means to do this, particularly interested me…The fact that I had seen chronophotographs of fencers in action and horses galloping gave me the idea for the Nude.’


    After 1912 Duchamp rarely produced paintings and his artistic practice continued to focus on readymades and the conceptualisation of art. In 1937 however, Duchamp created a miniature retrospective in the form of pochoir reproductions, to be housed in his Boîte-en-Valise. After considering the production of a number of prints, only Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 and The Bride were realised, both in small editions of which the number is unknown. Following the standard practice in France for the authentication of legal documents, where a lawyer would apply a postage stamp to a page and sign his name across it, Duchamp followed suit with these reproductions. In similar process the artist applied a single French 5-centime revenue stamp to each pochoir, and over it signed his name and the date. By doing so, Duchamp declared each of the prints to be an original authentic artwork.

    • Literature

      Ecke Bonk, Marcel Duchamp: The Box in a Valise, de ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rrose Sélavy, New York, 1989, No. 10 (illustration of another example p. 212)
      Francis M. Naumann, Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, New York, 2000 (illustration of another example fig. 5.20)
      Arturo Schwarz 458 (illustration of another example p. 745)

9

Nu déscendant un escalier No. 2 (Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2) (S. 458)

1937
Pochoir-coloured reproduction, on wove paper, with full margins.
I. 32.1 x 19.7 cm (12 5/8 x 7 3/4 in.)
S. 35.2 x 20 cm (13 7/8 x 7 7/8 in.)

Signed and dated in blue ink on the French 5-centime revenue stamp, from the small unnumbered edition, created for the artist's La Boîte-en-Valise, Paris, 1941, framed.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£40,000 - 60,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £56,700

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 21 January 2021