Duchamp's famous urinal sculpture was actually created by Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/07/02/duchamps-famous-urinal-sculp.html


From the title, I was hoping that they had identified the anonymous designer at the plumbing fixture company.


"Scholars have been aware of the Duchamp’s letter since the 1980s! It’s in the news now because, although reprinting and praising the book in which the revelation is made, Museum of Modern Art (NY) has still refused to acknowledge Elsa’s role – as does Tate (check out Tate’s website account of Fountain no mention of Elsa!) And this deceit is the really shocking news. " Theft of Concepts



Alternate headline: Modern art kicked off by bropropriation.


Addendum to alternate headline: Women say “well, duh!”


Wasn’t that a quote? Something like one of the great things about being a woman artist is “Seeing your ideas live on in the work of others”


I decided to leave out “surprising approximately no women anywhere.” :wink:

Figured it was too much of a gimme.




Cezyou! :wink:


Someone has to explain to me how an artwork, submitted anonymously, was ever authoritatively attributed to Duchamp in the first place, 10 years later at that. (I had never heard this part of the story.)


This is cool. Not only does the sausage party get upset; but also the cult of personality in art sales too. The whole way that the “value” of a work of art is based on who it is attributed too rather than any artistic merit.


For anyone interested (as I was) here’s a link that contains the text of the letter referenced (and seems to be the source from 1982 where the letter first came to light.). Do a search for ‘Mutt’ to find the letter. Here’s the sentence:
“One of my female friends under a masculine pseudonym, Richard Mutt, sent in a porcelain urinal as a sculpture; it was not at all indecent no reason for refusing it…”

Interestingly the citation, when referring to this sentence, doesn’t treat it like the revelation it was, and the citation is worded in such a way that you could almost read it as stating that the readymade wasn’t actually made by a female friend of his but that he “intended this work to have been submitted by a woman” which is a weird and misleading way of putting it.

Here’s the citation:
“This is our first knowledge of the fact that Duchamp originally intended
this work to have been submitted by a woman, and it is curious
that at this time he does not even acknowledge to his sister that the entry
was actually his own. Apparently, Duchamp kept his identity a closely
guarded secret until later in the month, after the appearance of The
Blind Mart magazine, where the item in question was first provided an
adequate public defense.”

What they should have said is: this is our first knowledge that Duchamp stole the credit for this work from a female friend who was the actual creator of the work.



“Elsa Hildegard Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven (née Plötz; 12 July 1874 – 15 December 1927) was a German avant-garde, Dadaist artist and poet who worked for several years in Greenwich Village, New York.”

“She related the ways that political structures promote masculine authority figures in family settings, functioning as a means of maintaining the state’s patriarchal societal order of which even the patriarch is submissive to, to her father’s behavior.[4]”

"Few artworks by the Baroness exist today. Several known found object works include Enduring Ornament (1913), Earring-Object (ca. 1917-1919), Cathedral (ca. 1918) and Limbswish (ca. 1920). Rediscovered by the Whitney Museum in New York City in 1996, her Portrait of Marcel Duchamp (no longer extant) is another example of her ready-made pieces.

There has been substantial new research indicating that some artworks attributed to other artists of the period can now either be attributed to the Baroness, or raise the possibility that she may have created the works. One work, called God (1917) had for a number of years been attributed to the artist Morton Livingston Schamberg. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, whose collection includes God, now credits the Baroness as a co-artist of this piece."


The Artist


“The story is that Marcel Duchamp invented modern art in 1917”

LOL, absolutely nobody says this. “Modern” art as we understand the term today had already been around for years and years by 1917.


That’s a lovely juxtaposition of surnames.

" Just an hour ago she was just plain old Elsa Plotz; now she’s Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven."

That photo of the artist is astonishing; and I’m a big fan of “God”. Found objects really tickle my artistic fancy.

That photo of her is astonishing, and I really like “God”. Found objects tickle my artistic fancy.


But everyone knew her as Nancy.


That photo of the artist is wonderfully intense, and I really like “God”. Found objects really tickle my artistic fancy. They are kind of pure art to me.

1 Like

Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, Édouard Manet, 1863, birth of modern art (al least according to my art history professor)


Ah, the product of the Bow Wow Wow Haus school of art.


Agreed… if anything, Fountain and Duchamp’s work are forerunners of post-modernism.