Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés
Michael R. Taylor
INSTALLATION (Part 1)*
* Taylor, Michael R.; Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés, Philadelphia Museum of Art & Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 129-140, pp. 183-184. (Published on the occasion of an exhibition held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Aug. 15 - Nov. 1, 2009.)
THERE WAS A PAINTER NAMED COPLEY...
In the early months of 1966, having completed Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage ... to his satisfaction, Duchamp set about planning its eventual disassembly, removal, and permanent installation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which since 1954 has housed the world’s largest collection of the artist’s work. Perhaps sensing that there might be opposition to the sexual content of the work among the Museum’s Board of Trustees, curators, and general staff, Duchamp decided to involve a third party—his friend and fellow artist William Nelson Copley. The two men had met and became close friends in the late 1940s, with Duchamp later advising the independently wealthy Copley—son of the newspaper tycoon Ira Clifton Copley, who had amassed the publishing empire known as the Copley Press—on purchases for his art collection.
---- Thanks to a short and spectacularly unsuccessful stint as a gallery owner in Beverly Hills, William Nelson Copley—known to his friends as Bill—had assembled an impressive collection of Surrealist paintings and sculpture. During the brief existence of the Copley Galleries, which he opened in partnership with his brother-in-law John Ployardt in September 1948 and closed six months later, Copley purchased for himself numerous works of art that otherwise had failed to sell, including major paintings, sculpture, and constructions by Joseph Cornell, Max Ernst, René Magritte, Man Ray, Roberto Matta, and Yves Tanguy, all of whom he worshiped as “gods descended straight from Mount Olympus.” By the 1950s, Copley owned such iconic works as Duchamp’s readymade Pharmacie (1914), Magritte’s The Treachery of Images (1929), Man Ray’s Observatory Time—The Lovers (1932-34), and Ernst’s Surrealism and Painting (1942). In a 1968 interview, Copley explained that his remarkable collection began more by accident than design, due to his generous contracts with artists who exhibited at his gallery: “I started collecting at that time really because each artist that I showed, again I suppose it was bad business judgment, but I guaranteed ten percent of the sales. And those I didn’t sell, I would buy ten percent of the show myself. Which turned out to be the basis of my collection.”
---- Copley moved to Paris in March 1951, traveling on the transatlantic ocean liner SS De Grasse with Man Ray—the same voyage at the departure of which Duchamp gave his former Dada colleague the gift of Feuille de vigne femelle (Female Fig Leaf). Shortly after arriving in the French capital, Copley made a portrait of Duchamp (fig. 3.2) based on a photograph of the artist with four friends, including Copley himself, on board the SS De Grasse (fig. 3.1). The aspiring Surrealist painter was clearly fascinated by the photograph’s depiction of Duchamp’s craggy facial features, which Copley exaggerated to comic effect in the portrait by delineating the artist’s wrinkled visage with a series of thick black lines that extend across his red scarf, gray overcoat, and fedora.
---- In large part through Duchamp’s extensive list of contacts in Paris, Copley was able to meet and befriend many of the artists associated with the international Surrealist movement. He also met the expatriate American sculptor James Metcalf, who would become one of his closest friends, and the British artist Richard Hamilton, whom Copley later hired as the editor of a series of monographs on contemporary artists that he published. With Duchamp’s sage advice, Copley was able to expand his art collection, especially in the late 1950s and early 1960s, after he and his brother James inherited ownership of the Copley Press. The subsequent financial windfall supported Copley’s lavish lifestyle and passion for collecting, and bolstered the grant-making ability of the William and Noma Copley Foundation, which he had established in Chicago in 1954 to provide artists with funds to support their creative endeavors.
---- In 1962, Copley and his second wife, Noma Ratner, returned to the United States, settling again briefly in Los Angeles before moving to New York the following year. It was at that time the couple began seeing a great deal of Duchamp and his second wife, Teeny, especially since the artist served on the board of the Copley Foundation and helped determine which artists would receive grants. Duchamp’s input can be surmised from the names of recipients of awards, many of whom were his closest friends and family members: Hans Bellmer, Joseph Cornell, Richard Hamilton, Duchamp’s stepson Paul Matisse, and Isabelle Waldberg, along with several young, up-and-coming artists whom Duchamp presumably admired for their conceptual ideas and radical approach to performance, assemblage, and language, including Bruce Conner, Joseph Kosuth, Bruce Nauman, Dieter Roth, and Carolee Schneemann.
---- In March 1966, Duchamp invited Copley to see what he described as a “big sculpture-construction” in his new studio at 80 East Eleventh Street in New York, which suggests that by then he had completed Étant donnés. “One day he called me up,” Copley later recalled, “and asked me to come to his studio downtown. I went, and when I came in—I was speechless. Here was a complete work of such complexity, which no one imagined even existed. But there it was.” The powerful impact of seeing this secret work, which Copley would later describe as a “Rube Goldberg copulating machine,” convinced him to purchase it through his foundation for $60,000, with the artist’s proviso that the work eventually be donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The money was transferred in installments, beginning with a $15,000 down payment on March 15, 1968, with a portion of the funds to be used to cover the costs of transportation, installation, and insurance. The financial component of the foundation’s acquisition also was designed to add a degree of legitimacy to the work’s eventual donation, since Étant donnés would not be presented to the Museum as a gift from the artist, but instead be donated by a charitable organization with a board of advisors comprised of prominent members of the American art establishment.
---- Copley thus joined a unique club, consisting of a bare handful of people who saw Étant donnés before the artist’s death, although membership appeared to increase tenfold in the subsequent forty years, as many of Duchamp’s friends, colleagues, and minor acquaintances stepped forward fraudulently claiming prior knowledge of the work, or were falsely credited by others with seeing it. In reality, there is no evidence that Duchamp took anyone into the studio whom he did not absolutely have to, which meant that even his closest friends and admirers, including Richard Hamilton, Man Ray, and Arturo Schwarz, were kept in the dark. During the short period of time between the artist’s death and the transfer of the piece to Philadelphia, Copley and Teeny Duchamp invited Evan H. Turner, the Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, along with several members of his staff—Anne d’Harnoncourt, then a Curatorial Assistant; Henry G. Gardiner, Assistant Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture; and Theodor Siegl, the Museum’s Conservator—and Museum Trustee George M. Cheston, to see Étant donnés. During this small window of opportunity, several people close to Duchamp also visited the studio, among them the composer John Cage, the art dealer Arne Ekstrom, the painter Cleve Gray, the photographer Denise Browne Hare, and the curator Walter Hopps, then director of the Washington (D.C.) Gallery of Modern Art, but none of these friends and acquaintances had known previously of the work’s existence.
---- One person who was aware of the work was Robert Lebel, the author of the first comprehensive monograph on Duchamp and a close friend of the artist during the germination and secret construction of Étant donnés. “Of course I knew of Marcel’s project,” Lebel wrote to d’Harnoncourt on May 17, 1969. “We had discussed it together and I am glad that this new (but old) Duchamp, as you say, will soon be permanently installed in your Museum.” D’Harnoncourt had written to Lebel four days earlier regarding Duchamp’s drawing Cols alités (FIG. 3a.1), which she had seen reproduced in an article he published in 1964. She and Teeny Duchamp had been perplexed by the circumstances under which Duchamp had made the work—they found it “so extraordinary to see a landscape with a telephone or electrical pole appearing behind the Chocolate Grinder!”—and requested further details about the drawing from Lebel.
---- In his response to this inquiry, Lebel revealed that the full title of the drawing, as written by Duchamp on the verso, was Cols alités: Projet pour Ie modèle 1959 de La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même. As Lebel pointed out, “This title states clearly enough that the drawing was done in connection with the work you are now installing but Marcel, who was keeping his project more or less secret, asked me to make no mention of it in my catalogue. Actually this drawing was made for a book I was preparing at the time (1959) but which was not published. The publisher paid [Duchamp for] the drawing ... but as he didn’t like it, mind you, I bought it back from him.”
---- Lebel’s previously unpublished letter confirms that Duchamp connected Cols alités with the themes and imagery of The Large Glass. The drawing’s title, which can be translated as “bedridden mountains,” further suggests that the gently rolling landscape of Étant donnés, with its sparkling waterfall, can be understood as a three-dimensional embodiment of his “definitively unfinished” early masterpiece. Thanks to the contents of Lebel’s letter, Cols alités also now can be firmly connected with the failed publication project he had planned with the artist in 1959, which was to have included Duchamp’s elaborate multimedia triptych comprising the three relief sculptures entitled With My Tongue in My Cheek, Torture-morte, and Sculpture-morte (FIG. 3a.2 and FIG. 3a.3 and FIG. 3a.4).
---- Lebel’s May 17, 1969, letter also notes his prior knowledge of Étant donnés, but his subsequent letter to d’Harnoncourt, on July 15, thanking her for sending him a photograph of the old Spanish door and the brick archway of Étant donnés, confirms that he did not have an opportunity to see the work in Duchamp’s studio. Much to Lebel’s disappointment, when the piece was installed at the Museum, d’Harnoncourt had informed him that neither scholars of the artist’s work nor members of the general public would be allowed behind the door. “It seems to me,” wrote Lebel, “that Marcel’s close friends should have been warned and given a chance to see the work before the door was sealed.” Lebel would eventually see the tableau-construction at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in early October 1969, and would publish an important essay on his friend’s final work the following year.
---- Duchamp’s photographs include a Polaroid in the Manual of Instructions for the assembly of Étant donnés that shows Teeny Duchamp bending over the mannequin and lifting its fragile torso, and provide conclusive evidence that Copley was not the only person to know of the work’s existence prior to the artist’s death. In addition, Duchamp’s letters to Maria Martins—the Surrealist sculptor and wife of the Brazilian ambassador to the United States, with whom an infatuated Duchamp had a love affair during the 1940s—reveal the integral part she played in the work’s construction. Although their relationship had ended in the early 1950s, Martins confirmed in a letter to Evan Turner, dated April 15, 1969, that she had seen “le grand tableau” in 1966, shortly after it was completed, and that she had followed the work’s progress closely since posing for its earliest studies (FIG. 3a.5, FIG. 3a.6, FIG. 3a.7). This visit most likely took place on March 10, 1966, when Duchamp and Martins saw each other for the last time, confirming that the artist had completed his tableau-construction by this date. In addition to Maria Martins, Teeny Duchamp, and Bill Copley—the three protagonists who played a crucial role in the work’s construction and subsequent history—two important figures in the history of the Philadelphia Museum of Art also saw Étant donnés in Duchamp’s studio before his death. Their knowledge of the piece, confirmed by newly discovered documents, has heretofore been a closely guarded secret.
---- On January 31, 1968, Bernice “Bonnie” McIlhenny Wintersteen, the Museum’s President, had lunch with Duchamp and Copley in New York before seeing the “sculpture-construction” in the artist’s East Eleventh Street studio. Duchamp had met Wintersteen two weeks earlier, when he and Teeny had lunch with her at her home in Haverford, on the outskirts of Philadelphia, and it was probably on this occasion that the artist invited her to see Étant donnés. Barnet Hodes, a Chicago-based lawyer who advised Copley’s charitable foundation and served as its secretary-treasurer, was to have joined the group on January 31, but Duchamp forgot to include the date of the luncheon in his written invitation. “There was quite a misunderstanding about the lunch with Mrs. Wintersteen,” the artist apologized in a letter to Hodes dated February 14, 1968. “I forgot to tell you the date of the luncheon which had already been set for Wednesday, the 31st of January. Your letter came on February 2nd, distinctly too late to let you know. We certainly will have more occasions for other luncheons with Mrs. Wintersteen and will let you know in advance.” Hodes would come to regret missing this appointment. Although Duchamp subsequently discussed Étant donnés at length with the lawyer and showed him several photographs of the piece, he never again offered him the opportunity to see the work in his studio.
---- The artist’s decision to invite Wintersteen to view Étant donnés was clearly motivated by a desire to ensure that the Philadelphia Museum of Art would accept the work if it were to be offered as a gift. By the late 1960s, with astute advice from her brother, Henry P. McIlhenny―who served the Museum as curator from 1939 until 1964, and then as chairman until 1976―Bonnie Wintersteen and her husband, John, had assembled an important collection of modern and contemporary art, which filled her Haverford home to the rafters with works by Charles Demuth, André Derain, Marie Laurencin, Henri Matisse, Henry Moore, Georgia O’Keeffe, Mark Rothko, and Andy Warhol. Above all, she adored Pablo Picasso’s work, and owned nineteen of his paintings and works on paper spanning all periods of his career, from Chrysanthemums (1901) to Gray Woman (1964). Her taste as a collector and her prominent position as President of the Museum suggest that she would not have been a pushover for Duchamp and Copley as they attempted to persuade her to accept the sexually explicit work. In fact, when Wintersteen saw Étant donnés after their luncheon, she was not at all shocked by its subject matter, although she later told Anne d’Hamoncourt that she was surprised by the realism of the tableau-construction, since she had associated Duchamp’s art with Cubist fragmentation.
---- At Wintersteen’s suggestion, Duchamp invited Henry Clifford, the Museum’s Vice President and a former Curator of Paintings, to see the work in late February or early March 1968, since she trusted his judgment and believed that he could be a powerful advocate for Étant donnés when it was presented to the Board of Trustees. A prominent Philadelphia-based collector with a keen interest in Surrealism and Mexican modernism, Clifford owned several important modern paintings, including Henri Rousseau’s Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!) of 1891, Giorgio de Chirico’s The Sailors’ Barracks (1914), Joan Miró’s The Tilled Field (1923-24), and Picasso’s Woman Seated before a Mirror (1937). Perhaps more important, Clifford had organized several landmark exhibitions at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, including the celebrated Henri Matisse retrospective in 1948. Indeed, his role as the curator of the 1959 Gustave Courbet exhibition perhaps led him to recognize in Étant donnés certain similarities to the nineteenth-century artist’s nudes and rocky landscapes.
---- Wintersteen’s intuition that Clifford would support the acquisition turned out to be correct, and his meeting with Duchamp was a positive one, as the excited and much relieved artist related in a letter to Hodes, dated March 2, 1968: “We had the visit of Mr. Henry Clifford, Vice President of the Museum of Philadelphia―He saw the sculpture-construction, liked it very much and wrote us that after having spoken with Mrs. Wintersteen, he and she want it definitely for the museum. Without any definite date we may expect that the transfer of the piece to Philadelphia could not be before next November after our return from Europe. We will leave on Sunday March 31st for Europe (six months).” Sadly, Duchamp did not live to see the work on display at the Museum, but he died safe in the knowledge that Clifford, Copley, and Wintersteen, the three “outsiders” who saw Étant donnés before his death on October 2, 1968, would ensure that his sculpture-construction found a permanent home in Philadelphia. Clifford told Theodor Siegl, the Museum’s Conservator, that the artist knew the location and dimensions of the gallery in which he wished the work to be installed, although Clifford and Duchamp did not discuss specific arrangements regarding its placement within the room.
---- Copley’s own interest in acquiring Étant donnés through his foundation, for a relatively large sum of money and with no hope of ever living with the work himself, undoubtedly stemmed from his strong sense of philanthropy, which his close friend Walter Hopps believed had been forged from his personal history as the adopted son of a newspaper magnate. Other factors in his decision likely included his own career as an artist inspired by Duchamp’s example, as well as his passion for erotic art and hedonistic pleasure (fig. 3.3). Copley’s humorous, proto-Pop paintings and drawings, which he began making in 1947, were executed in a garishly colored comic-strip style. The works typically consist of interior scenes, especially brothel bedrooms and bathrooms, inhabited by curvaceous female nudes heavily outlined in black and frequently accompanied by small, anonymous male figures wearing bowler hats. As Sara Cochran has pointed out, Copley’s anachronistic men in bowler hats were inspired by Renė Magritte’s signature motif of a faceless man in suit and bowler, and “by embracing this trapping of bourgeois banality, Copley tacitly signaled his final understanding of the ironic nonconformity” of the Belgian Surrealist.
---- Copley later credited Duchamp’s 1918 mural-sized painting Tu m’ (fig. 3.4) as the single most important influence on his art, perhaps due to its realistically rendered hand, with an index finger pointing in the manner of old-fashioned directional signs, a work that was painted by a professional sign painter at Duchamp’s invitation. The illusionistic pointing hand is a familiar trope from the world of signage, advertising, and the mass media, sources from which Copley freely borrowed in his own work, which often imbued the most mundane subjects with humor and eroticism. In his 1964 charcoal drawing Le Voyeur, for example―made before Copley had any idea of the existence of Étant donnés―the viewer espies a scantily clad woman in stockings and garter belt crouching in a toilet stall (fig.3.5), thus underlining the artist’s shared affinities with the voyeurism and erotic impulse of Duchamp’s peepshow construction.
---- Copley’s interest in eroticism, both in his art and in his private life, was noted by Duchamp in humorous wordplay on the painter’s name that was printed on an announcement card for the younger artist’s 1960 exhibition of recent paintings at the Alexander Iolas Gallery in New York: “Cops pullulate, Copley copulates.” In 1963, Duchamp followed this lewd pun with the bawdy limerick: “There was a painter named Copley / Who never would miss a good lay, / And to make his paintings erotic / Instead of brushes, he simply used his prick.” The sexual nature of this verse again confirms their shared passion for humor and eroticism, which probably provided the groundwork for Copley’s decision to acquire his friend’s monumental final piece through the foundation.
---- Copley’s profound admiration for Duchamp, whom he considered to be a master of “ambivalence” and, with James Joyce, one of “the two greatest punsters of the [twentieth] century,” must also have played a role in his decision to underwrite Duchamp’s final project. A self-taught artist, Copley later recalled that his vividly colored, cartoon-like paintings of faceless nude women accompanied by neatly be suited little men had received crucial early support from Duchamp: “I was very much a primitive―I never studied formally―and I will never forget what Marcel said to me, the greatest words of encouragement I ever received: ‘Why don’t you go on painting?’” The catalogue that accompanied Copley’s 1966 retrospective exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam validated Duchamp’s earlier jeux de mots. Dedicated to Playboy publisher Hugh M. Hefner, Copley’s catalogue was explicitly modeled on the legendary magazine, right down to the heading “Entertainment for Men,” and even included a centerfold “Copleymate,” a clever allusion to the magazine’s shapely playmates (fig. 3.6). Duchamp, Max Ernst, and Man Ray all attended the exhibition opening in October 1966 and were photographed holding their catalogues with an air of conspiratorial humor that marks their longstanding friendship as colleagues in the Dada and Surrealist movements (fig. 3.7). Far younger in age than Duchamp, Ernst, and Man Ray, Copley looked up to these artists, especially Duchamp, whose Étant donnés he had formally acquired earlier that year.
---- In 1966, Copley agreed to Duchamp’s request that the name of the William and Noma Copley Foundation be changed to the Cassandra Foundation, an enigmatic designation that to the Philadelphia Museum of Art would perhaps sound less like the private plaything of a rich artist and more like a serious arts organization. According to Copley’s close friend the artist James Metcalf, the foundation’s new name was chosen in the spring of 1961 following a production of Euripides’ The Women of Troy at the Rėcamier Theater in Paris. The performance began when the Mexican actress Pilar Pellicer, playing the role of Cassandra, burst on stage with a flaming torch in each hand, seemingly “possessed with prophecy.” Duchamp attended the opening night performance with Bill and Noma Copley, the Mexican poet and writer Octavio Paz, and Metcalf, who was married to Pellicer at the time. Later, over dinner, the group discussed the fate of the doomed Cassandra, the visionary daughter of King Priam of Troy whose prophetic pronouncements never were believed but tragically always proved true. Duchamp may have associated the Greek myth of Cassandra―who argued that the admission of the giant wooden horse offered by the Greeks would precipitate the fall of Troy―with his own effort to persuade fellow artists to relinquish the yoke of retinal painting, a task that must have appeared hopeless during the height of Abstract Expressionism. The torch-bearing goddess also may have brought to mind the female nude who bears aloft a burning gas lamp in his tableau-construction. Finally, one may speculate that Duchamp realized he was then planning his own Trojan horse, since he no doubt was aware that the explicit sexual content of Étant donnés would produce a scandal when it entered the hallowed walls of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
---- Inspired by the performance and subsequent group discussion, Metcalf made a sculpture entitled The Torch of Cassandra, which was purchased by Barnet Hodes, the foundation’s lawyer and secretary-treasurer. Several years later, Hodes told the artist that after acquiring the sculpture he had investigated the story of Cassandra, and in 1964, when the motion to change the name of the foundation was presented, he and Duchamp were the only members of the board of directors to know her story. According to Metcalf, Copley informed him that Noma naturally enough failed to see why the foundation should be rechristened, especially as her own name would be replaced with that of another woman. Duchamp waited in the living room of the couple’s apartment at 7 West Eighty-first Street in New York, while in the bedroom Bill and Noma Copley engaged in a heated argument over the foundation’s proposed name change. After a long period of time had elapsed and the couple’s raised voices had been replaced with complete silence, “Bill blew a cloud of white cigarette smoke out the door of the bedroom” and into the adjacent living room to let Duchamp know that his efforts had been successful.
CONSULTING THE MANUAL
In the fall of 1965, Duchamp received word that the lease had expired on his fifth-floor apartment and its studio annex at 210 West Fourteenth Street in New York, which he had been renting since October 1943 and where he had done most of the work on Étant donnés. The artist frantically began taking small-scale, black-and-white Polaroid photographs to document the unfinished work, knowing that he would have to take the piece apart and then put it back together in his new studio―a tiny, sparsely furnished room measuring just eighteen by twenty feet, on the fourth floor of an office building at 80 East Eleventh Street, which he began renting on January 1, 1966. Although intended as a visual aid, these photographs transcend their initial documentary purpose, since collectively they provide an unforgettable behind-the-scenes tour of the artist’s Fourteenth Street studio, recognizable from Percy Rainford’s images of the space that were used for Frederick Kiesler’s photo-montage in the 1945 View special issue on Duchamp (see FIG. 3a.8).
---- These Polaroids formed the basis of the first Manual of Instructions, completed in 1965 and housed in a red plastic binder that Duchamp had bought on vacation in Cadaqués. The artist accompanied the photographs with a four-page manuscript detailing twelve “operations,” which, if followed to the letter, would allow him to dismantle and move the work in order to reconstruct it in a new location (fig. 3.8a-d). The binder also included a separate note entitled “Lumieres,” which detailed the arrangement, wattage, and manufacturers of the complex lighting system for Étant donnés (see fig. 3.9). Duchamp often enumerated the tasks at hand in a rushed and haphazard manner, and his use of shorthand suggests he was working relentlessly to ensure that, when reinstalled in the Eleventh Street studio, Étant donnés would match the representation of its earlier configuration in his photographs. The artist’s haste also may explain why the drawings are less detailed and the overall appearance less polished than those in the second and final Manual of Instructions, which was intended to be read by a third party when, at some future point in time, the work would be disassembled and reconstituted.
---- Many of the components that make up the piece were photographed individually for the first manual, with special attention paid to the bricks, the landscape backdrop, and the supine female mannequin, which is shown in various states of formation. In several images, the nude is wrapped in plastic―suggesting that these Polaroids were taken just before the move―while others show the mannequin through the brick aperture, thus presenting the view that Duchamp hoped to achieve one day through the peepholes in the weather-beaten wooden door at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. At this point, the female figure wore a brown wig, although Duchamp wrote a note to remind him to change it to a blonde one that would match Teeny’s hair color. On one occasion, the artist spliced together two photographs to obtain a panoramic view of Étant donnés (see FIG. 3a.9A), a collage technique that Duchamp would use frequently in the second manual.
---- Unlike the final Manual of Instructions, which contained only black-and-white photographs, the first version included two large color prints of the Étant donnés interior (see FIG. 3a.9B and FIG. 3a.9C), and a suite of five Polaroids that were taken on February 12, 1964. The artist’s inscriptions on the Polaroids confirm that he was experimenting with different light and weather conditions in these color photographs, as he struggled to capture the three-dimensional quality of the interior to his satisfaction. The black-and-white Polaroids in the first manual also contain inscriptions in the surrounding white borders, and numbers and directions in colored inks on the photographs themselves, notations that were made to assist Duchamp in the meticulous placement of the composition’s parts, such as the bundles of twigs and branches on the workbench (see FIG. 3a.9D). Unpublished until now, the seventy images―black-and-white Polaroids and color photographs―found in the first manual reveal the work to have been near completion by the end of 1965.
---- A large number of other photographs used in the first manual were reused and many were enlarged for the second and final Manual of Instructions, which Duchamp prepared in 1966 to direct the work’s eventual move to Gallery 1759 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the room that he had specifically (but secretly) chosen in the early 1950s as the final resting place for his elaborate tableau-construction. The artist initially separated the photographs contained in the first manual into two envelopes, one marked “photos supplementaires pour un second album de détails” (supplementary photos for a second album of details) and the other “aggran-dissements faits + 99 cliches et petites photos moins interressants” (enlargements to be made + 99 snapshots and less interesting small photos). Having selected which photographs he would recycle, Duchamp placed the seventy discarded photographs back in the red binder that was used for the first manual, where they were later joined by the images that had been professionally enlarged. These blown-up images, along with some of the smaller Polaroids in the first manual and new photographs taken in the Eleventh Street studio, then were used to construct the visual component of the second Manual of Instructions.
---- This second manual follows the same format as the manuscript Duchamp wrote for the original but adds three operations to the initial twelve, for a total of fifteen. He also changed the order of some of the instructions, no doubt based on his experience disassembling and reassembling Étant donnés at the end of 1965. The artist also made a folded cardboard model to scale of the tableau-diorama (FIG. 3a.10A-C), containing important measurements, such as the height of the peepholes in the wooden door, labeled “trous de voyeur” (holes of the voyeur), as well as three upright sections that establish the physical distance between the wooden door, the brick aperture, and the landscape backdrop. An important document, and a work of art in its own right, the cardboard model provides a three-dimensional visualization of Étant donnés that complements the manual’s written instructions and photographs.
---- In preparation for the expanded second version, the artist revisited, revised, and renumbered his earlier manuscript. In the first manual, the manuscript was followed by the photographs, arranged in no particular order and placed in plastic sleeves. This format provided the blueprint for the final version, which began with the textual instructions but then deviated from the original by integrating photographs with the text for each of the fifteen steps, so that the reader could follow Duchamp’s instructions more precisely. At his advanced age, Duchamp undoubtedly was aware that he might not live to see Étant donnés installed in Philadelphia, perhaps explaining why the second manual is more detailed and user-friendly than the first.
---- Bound in a three-ring black-plastic binder and annotated with a series of drawings and precise written instructions and specifications, the photographs in the final Manual of Instructions combine views of the old Fourteenth Street studio reused from the first manual with new shots at 80 East Eleventh Street. Liberally illustrated with 116 black-and-white Polaroids taken by the artist―and, in at least one instance, by Teeny Duchamp-this practical, loose―leaf notebook contains thirty-five handwritten pages of notes, plans, sketches, and diagrams, again housed in plastic sleeves.
---- First published in 1987 as part of the Museum’s celebration of the one-hundredth anniversary of Duchamp’s birth, this binder of illustrated instructions has had far-reaching ramifications for the study of Étant donnés. Although the manuscript notes offer no explanation as to the artist’s intentions or the meaning of the work, his litany of commands has been compared by the American composer John Cage to a musical score. “They resemble modern music a lot,” said Cage, “because they are directions for taking something down and putting it up. And a good deal of avant-garde music is directions for ‘doing’ something. It is the underlying principle in music: telling someone, by writing it down, how to do something.” At one point, Cage even began work on an opera based on Étant donnés, whose musical score was to have drawn on the unexpected beauty and richness of Duchamp’s prosaic commands in the manual, but the project foundered after the composer failed to obtain permission from the artist’s widow to proceed with the opera.
---- Although the Manual of Instructions does not provide a guide that would allow one to decipher or explain Étant donnés, its unexpected conjunctions of words and images, carefully constructed folds of text, startling photocollages (fig. 3.10), and delicate drawings in graphite and colored inks transcend the notebook’s practical purpose. In doing so, the manual provides a wealth of detail concerning the laborious production of the work, and its history and evolution. Étant donnés is described on the title page as an “approximation démontable,” a nearly untranslatable phrase that suggests a work to be taken apart and then reconstructed according to Duchamp’s detailed operations, which allowed for “an ad libitum margin in the dismantling and reassembling.” Despite this promise of flexibility, the pragmatic manual actually contains extremely specific instructions―right down to the wattage of the lightbulbs―and allows only a small margin of error in the construction of the work’s ocular illusion. In fact, the only two places where Duchamp allowed the slightest freedom were in the position of the cotton clouds in the sky, which “can be altered at will,” and the brilliance of the cascading waterfall, which is adjustable.
---- The first thing the reader notices on opening the ring binder is the unexpected use of photo collage to complete the diorama in situ. These photocollages allow one to see what is not visible through the peepholes on the exterior―namely, the intricate “backstage” environment―and they reveal Duchamp’s skill as a bricoleur, or tinkerer, as well as the economy of means by which he built Étant donnés. One immediately is aware of the artist’s eccentric system of fluorescent lighting, which requires a dense tangle of roughly connected electrical wires and close to thirty extension cords. The behind-the-scenes operations have a ramshackle quality that is dramatically different from the technical perfection of the illusionistic diorama the viewer sees through the installation’s peepholes, which cut off from sight many details, such as the wire that runs up the hollowed back of the mannequin’s elevated arm, confirming that the Bec Auer lamp is not lighted by gas, but electricity (fig. 3.11).
---- One of the photographs in the manual shows that the mannequin’s right arm, which is invisible from the viewer/voyeur’s vantage point, bears the work’s title and dates as well as the artist’s signature (fig. 3.13). Additional off-stage elements to be discovered in the manual are the two jagged-edge sections of black-and-white checkered linoleum, which Duchamp had placed underneath his tableau-construction on the wooden floor of the Fourteenth Street studio as a visual aid to help him carefully plot the exact position of every element of Étant donnés, while also referencing the artist’s lifelong passion for chess (fig. 3.14). His second studio, on 80 East Eleventh Street, had a linoleum floor with a checkerboard design, on top of which Duchamp placed the cutout strip from Fourteenth Street in order to align the elements according to their former presentation.
* Taylor, Michael R.; Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés, Philadelphia Museum of Art & Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 129-140, pp. 183-184. (Published on the occasion of an exhibition held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Aug. 15 - Nov. 1, 2009.)
 See Sara Cochran, “Passing the Hat: René Magritte and William Copley,” in Stephanie Barron and Michel Draguet, eds., Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Ghent, Belgium: Ludion, 2006), p. 76.