Duchamp with Shaving Lather for Monte Carlo Bond

Man Ray (1890–1976)
Gelatin silver print, 1924

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; gift of Jacqueline, Paul, and Peter Matisse in memory of their mother Alexina Duchamp
© 2009 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris

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In this photograph taken by Man Ray, Duchamp—playfully transformed with Man Ray’s assistance by the application of soapsuds to his hair and face—assumes yet another guise, that of Mercury, with his hair imitating the god’s winged helmet. His self-stylization also alludes to alchemy, with its intrinsic pairing of elements male (Duchamp) and female (associated with the element of mercury).

He collaged this likeness to his Monte Carlo Bond. Created in 1924, after he had left New York for Paris, this bond of Duchamp’s own invention, like his earlier work Wanted: $2,000 Reward (1923), reveals his understanding of a portrait’s power to authorize a legal document, even as he subverts it.

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Listen to co-curator James McManus discuss this image: