Gelatin silver print, 1917
Duchamp’s “multiple portrait,” produced on a postcard, shows not one, but five Duchamps. The five-way picture, made by sitting in front of a hinged mirror, had gained popularity by the late nineteenth century and was commonly found in photography studios and at amusement parks. Produced in editions of three, the portrait could be shared with friends.
For Duchamp, postcards were more than a novelty. By integrating the multiple portrait into his larger body of work, Duchamp transformed a mechanical picture, made by an anonymous camera operator, into a self-portrait that embodied his view of identity as fractured and unstable. It prefigures his creation of various alter egos, such as Rrose Sélavy. The picture was made on June 21, 1917, at the Broadway Photo Studio at the same time that Duchamp was photographed with Francis Picabia and Beatrice Wood.
Listen to co-curator James McManus discuss this image: