The same applies to the putative original sign from Apolinère Enameled. What did the original ad show? The Sapolin ad that Sherrie Levine found looks right as an ad design. But what about Apolinère Enameled, with a black strip painted above and below to hold text and display the bed? It is difficult to imagine a proper sign with the elements that Duchamp presents to us-bed, text and background painting. Given the complexity and subtlety of the ambiguous perceptual clues, together with the label on the back of the sign, I suspect that Duchamp may have painted the background. The label on the back states, "Wipe off with damp cloth." Duchamp adds in his own hand, "Don't do that" (see Bonk, 1918). If the sign were enamel, it could be wiped-after all this is a sign to advertise enamel paint! But perhaps this altered label is a clue that it is not enamel, and that the entire background painting, not just the changed letters at the top or bottom, are done in some other kind of paint. If this is so, could we not conclude that Duchamp himself painted (or had someone paint) the background?26

What about Fresh Widow (1920), a French window built by Duchamp? Real French windows open out. Duchamp's Fresh Widow is put into by more than just an incorrect spelling and black covering where glass should be. His French windows in Fresh Widow incorrectly open in, as signaled by the handle pulls and hinges.

As for the rest of the readymades, after considering my hypothesis, a person who requested to remain unnamed told me (personal communication, Fall, 1997) that he had noted that the Bottlerack (1914) seemed to have the wrong number of hooks and "that something seemed wrong" with the Bicycle Wheel on a stool, although he did not know exactly what.27 When I actually counted the Bottlerack hooks (using Duchamp's photograph of the "lost original"-a photo that scholars have noted has an incorrect and artificially-placed shadow), I observed that, as compared with his later reproductions, the tiers contain an odd number of hooks, asymmetrically distributed among the four quadrants in each tier of the rack (13, 10, 9, 9, 9, in the five tiers, respectively). Would such an asymmetry cause bottles placed on the hooks to topple the bottle dryer due to the unequal distribution of weight among the four quadrants or would the bottles overlap and therefore, make the rack not fully functional? Both effects would be testable by putting bottles on the hooks and observing the results. All commercial French bottle racks that I have seen contain an equal number of hooks in each quadrant of each tier. I am planning to alter an existing rack to match Duchamp's original (which is probably what he did in the first place).

And what about the Bicycle Wheel on a stool? When I examined the various photos of the (alleged) second lost version in Duchamp's studio and compared them with later readymade reproductions, I soon noted that in three different studio views, the allegedly same stool had different rungs missing (See Illustrations 15A, 15B, 15C). Rungs emerge and disappear, in whole and in part, essentially indicating that these photos represent either three different stools or doctored photographs.

Duchamp admitted that he retouched photographs. In the coat rack, this touching up is overt, although its purpose is not clear. Since we know that Duchamp doctored some photographs, shouldn't we be skeptical about what we see (retinally) in his other photographs, on the alert for other, perhaps undeclared, photographic alterations? In the case of the Bicycle Wheel (1913), why has no one questioned the discrepancies among the three versions of what is supposed to be the original stool? How can this "original" stool be considered a readymade from a store? And how, then, can it be used for further reproductions? Moreover, how did all the alleged Bicycle Wheel on a stool "reproductions" get "reproduced" with no broken or missing rungs? Was all this a test set by Duchamp for those doing the reproductions? Or did Duchamp allow the production of complete stools in order to encourage us in our false assumption that a readymade is an unchanged everyday object-the "I can also buy it at the store" artist's mythology?

One can also question the readymade entitled 50 cc of Paris Air (1919). This same unnamed person noted that the break at the stem where the glass hook meets the glass bulb seemed suspicious. We both questioned wheteh hooks were part of the standard design for this type of pharmacy vial, and I am presently doing research to find the answer. A second question concerns the title of 50 cc of Paris Air. Why only 50cc's in the title, when the container apparently holds 125cc's (Bonk, 1989, p. 202)?

Part I of Rhonda Roland Shearer's essay was originally published in
Art & Academe (ISSN: 1020-7812), Vol. 10, No. 1 (Fall 1997): 26-62.
Copyright © 1997 Visual Arts Press Ltd.
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