I first became acquainted with Marcel Duchamp’s very famous sculpture, Fresh Widow (1920), when I was studying art in college. Constructed by a carpenter in accordance with Duchamp’s instructions, Fresh Widow is a small version of the double doors commonly called a French window. Duchamp was fascinated by themes of sight and perception; here, the expectation of a view through windowpanes is thwarted by opaque black leather, which Duchamp insisted “be shined everyday like shoes.”
Fresh Widow is also reference to the recent abundance of widows of World War I fighters.
An inscription at the sculpture’s base reads COPYRIGHT ROSE SELAVY 1920, making it the first work to be signed by Duchamp’s female alter ego Rose Sélavy (later spelled Rrose). Duchamp derived the name from the French saying: “éros, c’est la vie,” which can be interpreted as “the sex drive is life.”
Fresh Widow is part of the permanent collection at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art.