Duchamp`s large glass Unit

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Duchamp’slarge glass



The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, orsimply The large Glass is a piece of art by French artistMarcel Duchamp. This artwork, which is no longer on display, has beentermed as one of the most cryptic and mystic pieces of art to date byDavid Joselit who analyzes the piece in depth in his article Modernmachines: From the virgin to the window. The article examines thetwo parts of the art piece that are encased in one frame as differententities and as one. Joselit first looks at the title of the artpiece and its similarity to titles of other previous works by thesame artist author. He thus considers the work as combination ofthemes. The piece of art, which Duchamp termed as “a hilariouspicture” took over eight years to complete. Joselit believes thatfor this reason, the piece was influenced by major developmentswithin that period. He thus posits the different ways that the piececan be interpreted. Some of the ways include the technological,psychological and philosophical developments of that time.

Richard Hamilton in the article The Large Glass takes adifferent approach to the art piece. The author looks at themotivations behind the art piece and specifically looks at individualcomponents of the art piece. He begins by examining the choice ofmaterials and the connection of the upper part and the lower part toearlier paintings by Duchamp individually. The author argues that thepiece seeks to interpret the world as Duchamp saw it without regardto existing frameworks. For instance, the perception of the chocolategrinder as sexual object is unique to Duchamp but he enforces that inhis audience. Thus Hamilton examines individual objects in the artpiece to show that it was driven by Duchamp’s perversity and thedesire to create a game or art of his own making.

Duchamp’s large glass: Different arguments

In the article titled “Modern machines: From the virgin to thewindow” by David Joselit, the author looks at the works of Duchampand seeks to interpret the The Large Glass in context of theperiod of time and his style. He notes that the piece, which was madebetween 1915 and 1923, comprised of two pieces of glass panes amongother material such as foil and wire demonstrates deeper meaning thatthe simple idea than the piece was a representation of modernity andtechnology.1He argues that the idea that the piece of work represents modernityexperienced in the early 20th century is clear in thewhole piece but the lower half negates this idea of modernity. Thisis mainly because the representation of the machines especially inthe lower part does not point to any efficiency associated withmachines but rather the failure to function as a machine. Theinclusion of a naked bride and bachelors points to another angle ofthe whole piece. Joselit thus says that the piece is best interpretedby perceiving the machine as an idiom or metaphor that represents acomplicated network of economic, psychoanalytic, and literarydiscourses of Duchamp’s time.2To him, the piece can be analyzed from an economic/financial andpsychoanalytic angle jut to mention a few.

First of all the author addresses the issue of the naked bride in thetitle. The naked bride is depicted in the upper part of the piece butthe nakedness is not visible. Joselit argues that the nakedness andthe relationship between the bride and the bachelors is not direct.It requires a new way of seeing to see the nakedness.3At the same time, the bride cannot be stripped by the nine bachelorsbecause she is inaccessible to conventional vision. The inability toactually see her nakedness according to Joselit is what drives thenine bachelors wild with desire. Again, the bride is madeinaccessible to the bachelors by the bride’s solid backing byfamily and friends represented by shiny metal gallows.4

One key issue that adds to the complexity of the art piece is thevast array of machinery. Joselit posits that the machinery representsa concept of modernity introduced by Henry Ford.5This concept of power recognized two forms of power mental power andphysical power. Ford visualized a situation where factories andindustries were reliant on the two types of power. Physical power wasneeded to run and turn the machines physically while mental power wasneeded as human capital to conceptualize and manage the entireenterprise. While the core idea of introducing machines to factorieswas to eliminate the need for workers, the idea did not achieve thisgoal as not all machines are fully automated even in the 21stcentury as they still require some form of human input. Thus Duchampcreated a paradoxical overlapping of physical attraction betweenbride and the bachelors with modern capitalization of mental andphysical capital.

A very different interpretation of the same art piece is provided byRichard Hamilton in his article The Large glass. Hamiltonfirst traces the history of the art piece to other art pieces byDuchamp notably the Munich bride, Nude descending astaircase, and The King and Queen Traversed bySwift.6These preceding works ofart are linked to Duchamp’s travel to Munich fromParis. Hamilton says that the experience of travelling in a fast carfrom Paris to Munich played a vital part in inspiring Duchamp toexplore the influence of modern technology on humans and relations.He thought of a graphical means to “express the mechanistic objectin a limitless one-dimensional space”7that culminated in The Large Glass.

With such a concept in mind, Duchamp made several written notes ofhis ideas. Ideally, he needed to present the concept of time andspace in a machine-like object that captures human elements. In oneof the notes, he clearly noted that the key elements were the brideand bachelors and that the graphical arrangement was a long canvaswith the bride above and bachelors below.8The bride element of the work was to be borrowed from the Bride ofMunich but in the new piece the bride would be floatingvicariously as opposed to being supported by a mesh as was the casein The bride of Munich. The machine element was borrowed froma chocolate grinder as Duchamp had seen it on display in Paris and itwas reconfigured to present the bachelor apparatus.

The chocolateglider apparatus forms an intriguing part of the art piece. Thegrinder is primarily made up of rotating drums, which apparently hadsexual connotation for him as shown by the whole piece. Other keymaterial was lead. Because the lead fuse wire is malleable and can beshaped in any form, it was best suited to be placed underneath theglass to etch the thin lines on the glass using hydrofluoric acid.However, this did not work out well and he ended up fixing the wireto the glass using mosaic varnish. With the wire fixed, he paintedthe glass with wire boundaries to seal in an envelope of glass andlead. The meticulous process and painstaking deliberations thatDuchamp went through goes to capture the intensity of the piece ofwork.9

One key theme thatDuchamp attempted to bring out in the art piece relates to humandetachment as one of the greatest human virtues.10In one of his notes, Duchamp indicated that the bride was detachedfrom the world of bachelors working on the chocolate grind. The gownwhich forms the horizon and separates the two realms shows the brideremoteness and detachment from the world. Again, from the choice ofcolors in the piece, which is most notable in the use of color greenthat he detested, it is clear that he was not eager to express hisego but rather produce a meticulously planned piece where everychoice of material and color show precision and the beauty ofindifference.11

The two textsdiscussed above approach the art piece very differently. Hamiltonseeks to analyze the work by examining the history, motivation, andinspiration as well the process of making the piece to draw meaning.On the contrary, Joselit seeks to examine the art piece fromdifferent discipline and discourses that he believes were allrepresented in the art piece. None of these approaches is wrong perse but Hamilton’s approach to the art piece is easier to understandas it picks on the mind of the artist and looks at the individualconcepts of the piece and how they add up to make the whole. Thus,Hamilton best explains the artwork compared to Joselit in my view.


Hamilton, Richard,“The large glass”, In D’Hamoncourt, Anne and McShine, Kynaston(eds.).

Marcel Duchamp,New York: Museum of modern art. Pp. 58-67.

Joselit, David,“Modern machines: From the virgin to the window” Infiniteregress marcel

Duchamp,1910-1941. Cambridge: MIT Press. Ch. 3 pp. 111-156. 2001.

1 Joselit 135

2 ibid

3 Ibid 120

4 ‘Joselit 124

5 Joselit 129

6 Hamilton 59

7 Hamilton 60

8 Hamilton 60

9 “ 62

10 “ 65

11 Hamilton 67

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