Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp

French-American, 1887–1968
Fresh Widow
1964 edition (based on 1920 original), painted wood frame and eight glass panels covered with black leather, 77.5 x 44.9 cm (30 1/2 x 17 5/8 in.)

Describing the manufacture of this sculpture, Duchamp said, “This small model of a French window was made by a carpenter in New York in 1920. To complete it I replaced the glass panes by panes made of leather, which I insisted should be shined everyday like shoes. French Window was called Fresh Widow, an obvious enough pun.” Indeed, the pun would have been especially pertinent in 1920, in the immediate aftermath of World War I. Signed by Duchamp’s female alter ego, Rose Sélavy (a pun on eros c’est la vie, or “eros, that’s life”), Fresh Widow offers a pointed critique of how art is traditionally perceived and understood. By blocking the window’s transparency, Duchamp contradicts the notion of paintings as windows onto other worlds—an idea broadly accepted since the Renaissance.