Rrose Sélavy

Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray (1890–1976)
Gelatin silver print, hand-retouched by Duchamp in black ink and pencil, 1921

Private collection
© 2009 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris

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Of the personae created by Duchamp, Rrose Sélavy is by far the most important. Duchamp’s first reference to “Rose” Sélavy was in 1920, as a signatory to his artwork Fresh Widow. Over the course of the following year, she “appeared” three times before Man Ray’s camera. During that year, her image and the spelling of her name all underwent changes. This photograph, taken in Paris, represents Rrose’s third and last “appearance” for Man Ray. Rrose wears the hat and fur-trimmed coat of Germaine Everling, Francis Picabia’s girlfriend and eventually his second wife. Everling’s hands are also in the photograph, and they render the illusion of femininity all the more believable.

The print is noticeably retouched and softened, giving Rrose Sélavy a more feminine appearance and bringing to mind the images of female celebrities and models that dominated the pages of publications such as Vanity Fair.

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Listen to co-curator James McManus discuss this image: