237.130_A2_W4_Task 4c_Visual Analysis


Man Ray. Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Sèlavy. Digital image. Philadelphia Museum of Art. N.p., 1920. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.


Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Sèlavy by Man Ray was created in 1921. Duchamp explored his own identity through a series of self-portrait photographs, this particular photograph was  a gelatin silver print. The process of a gelatin silver print involves soaking the film or paper and the negatives in a gelatin and silver salts emulsion. Duchamp fathered the Dada movement and the conceptual art movement as well. Duchamp is the most known for his sense of humor and wordplay, as well as for his work experimenting with human desire and sexuality, he sought to create intellectual conceptual art, rejecting works that just pleased the eye Duchamp called this “retinal pleasure”. The sensitivity of the gelatin silver print process improve tones and details of the final image.


In this image, Duchamp is captured in feminine pose and in costume by Man Ray, a renowned fashion photographer of the time. Man Ray equips Rrose with the technical side of things including the lighting while Duchamp continues to give artistic direction. The costume includes a large velvet hat and a large collared coat, dark eye makeup and lipstick accompany the sultry look. The viewers eye is drawn to the center where Rrose’s hands create leading lines towards the face. Assuming Rrose is looking directly at the camera the vantage point is just above the center of the image. The genre of the portrait often was used as an outlet for identity expression, different alter egos and personas were expressed. As seen in the image above, Duchamp’s masculine features are still prominent but he builds facade of feminity through the body positioning, the attire, and overall sultry look. Here Duchamp explores self-representation and identity through physical aspects such as dress and body language. Unconventional for the time, Duchamp hinted at the possibility of being transgender and the representations of being queer. The particular position of Rrose shows a sense of vulnerability, possibly symbolizing how transgenders felt at the time. The mystery behind the photo alludes to the curious world of gays and transgenders.


Rrose Sélavy, a pun made by Duchamp as it sounds similar to “Eros, c’est la vie” translates to “Eros, that’s life”.  Duchamp used the name as a byline, signing multiple artworks with it. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is home to Rrose, however currently it is not on display. The spectator of the image should stand at eye level to Rrose to fully appreciate the mystery in the image, the following images, and sculpture in the series reestablishes the anonymity, self-representation, and experimentation with identity. Duchamp as Rrose Sèlavy with a vague caption is open to interpretation. Even today, the transgender society still is uncommon and unconventional, the representation this image gives is still relevant.


Works cited

Man Ray. Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Sèlavy. Digital image. Philadelphia Museum of Art. N.p., 1920. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.

“Rrose Sélavy.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 04 May 2016.

“Marcel Duchamp Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works.” The Art Story. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2016.

Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Philadelphia Museum of Art – Collections Object : Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Sélavy.” Philadelphia Museum of Art – Collections Object : Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Sélavy. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2016.

“Meet Rrose Sélavy: Marcel Duchamp’s Female Alter Ego.” AnOther. AnOther Publishing, 1 Dec. 2015. Web. 04 May 2016.

Jones, Jonathan. “Rrose Sélavy, Man Ray (1921).” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 27 Oct. 2001. Web. 04 May 2016.


237.130_A2_W4_Task 4c_Visual Analysis

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