Submission Date


Document Type





Deborah Barkun

Committee Member

Katharine Davis

Committee Member

Meghan Tierney

Committee Member

David Aipperspach

Department Chair

Cari Freno

Project Description

Marcel Duchamp’s final work of art, Étant Donnés: La chute d’eau, 2. Le gaz d’eclairage (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas), installed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, was debuted after his death in 1968. The work was revealed to have been produced in secrecy between 1946-1966 and installed according to the artist’s detailed instructions. As viewers approach, they are confronted with an antique wooden door save for two peep holes, through which they find a motionless naked figure supporting a gas lamp, foregrounding an animated waterfall. The female form presenting a phallic object, the gas lamp, and the allusion to male orgasm as a running of water, have been discussed in literature; however, I argue that the body behind the door belongs to the artist’s well known female alter ego, Rrose Sélavy, as a self-portrait. Not only is this a final self-portrait of Duchamp and Sélavy as composite identity, but this is also the final breath of Sélavy, the permanent exhibition of her murder. This project investigates the iconographic connections between the design of Étant Donnés and the Black Dahlia Murder (Los Angeles, 1947) through analysis of Duchamp’s intention for Sélavy, the photographic work of Man Ray, the Freudian act of voyeurism.

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Fine Arts Commons