The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even
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|French: La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même
(Le Grand Verre)
|Type||Oil, varnish, lead foil, lead wire, and dust on two glass panels|
|Dimensions||277.5 cm × 175.9 cm (109.25 in × 69.25 in)|
|Location||Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia|
The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même), most often called The Large Glass (Le Grand Verre), is an artwork by Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp worked on the piece from 1915 to 1923, creating two panes of glass with materials such as lead foil, fuse wire, and dust. It combines chance procedures, plotted perspective studies, and laborious craftsmanship. Duchamp's ideas for the Glass began in 1913, and he made numerous notes and studies, as well as preliminary works for the piece. The notes reflect the creation of unique rules of physics, and myth which describes the work. He published the notes and studies as The Green Box in 1934. The notes describe that his "hilarious picture" is intended to depict the erotic encounter between the "Bride," in the upper panel, and her nine "Bachelors" gathered timidly below in an abundance of mysterious mechanical apparatus in the lower panel. The Large Glass was exhibited in 1926 at the Brooklyn Museum before it was broken during transport and carefully repaired by Duchamp. It is now part of the permanent collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Duchamp sanctioned replicas of The Large Glass, the first in 1961 for an exhibition at Moderna Museet in Stockholm and another in 1966 for the Tate Gallery in London. The third replica is in Komaba Museum, University of Tokyo.
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The Large Glass consists of two glass panels, suspended vertically and measuring 109.25 in × 69.25 in (277.5 cm × 175.9 cm). The entire composition is shattered, but it rests sandwiched between two pieces of glass, set in a metal frame with a wooden base. The top rectangle of glass is known as the Bride's Domain; the bottom piece is the Bachelors' Apparatus. It consists of many geometric shapes melding together to create large mechanical objects, which seem to almost pop out from the glass and ever-changing background.
All forms on the glass are outlined with lead wire and filled in with earth tone oil paint. The colors range from pale grey to gold to dark brown and black. Some figures are bumpy and cloudy, and contain the dust left on them during the time which the unfinished work lay dormant, which seems to be an attempt at capturing the dynamic passage of time in a sedate work.
The Bride is a mechanical, almost insectile, group of monochrome shaded geometric forms located along the left-hand side of the glass. She is connected to her halo, a cloudy form stretching across the top. Its curvilinear outline and grey shading are starkly offset by the three undulating squares of unpainted glass evenly spaced over the central part of the composition. The Bride's solid, main rectangular form branches out into slender, tentacle-like projections. These include an inverted funnel capped by a half-moon shape, a series of shapes resembling a skull with two misplaced ears, and a long, proboscis-like extension stretching down almost as far as the horizon line between her domain and that of the bachelors'. Her top-located domain is almost completely monochrome, with a wash of beige comparable to the cool colors of a cloudy sky.
The Bachelors' earthbound, lower domain, referred to by Duchamp as "La Machine Célibataire" (The Bachelor Machine), is a collection of much warmer, earthier colors of brown and golden tones. The Bachelors' Domain centers on the nine "Malic Molds." These dark brown shapes have a central vertical line, some with horizontal ones across them. They resemble the empty carcasses of clothes hanging from a clothesline, much more than they do actual men. They are interconnected through a spider web of thin lines, tying them to the seven conical cylinders. The cylinders range in color, and move in stages from nearly transparent on the left side, to translucent in the middle, to almost opaque on the far right. The opaque ones have swirling dark brown and gold colors and are almost solid three-dimensional forms, whereas the translucent ones are more ghostly outlines. They are connected in a line from tip to base and form a half circle. This rainbow-like shape is impaled centrally by a pole which connects them to the "chocolate grinder" at the lower part of the glass, and to the X-shaped rods that dominate the top center of the Bachelors' Domain.
There is a chocolate grinder which consists of three drum-like structures, arranged in even spacing around a circular platform. They are appropriately chocolate brown in color, and are very textural, with a series of ridges running around their outside and spiraling out from the center. There are three tiny legs that barely seem to support the entire structure.
The rods interconnect to form a large X, and look like they recede into space. One end is smooth and cylindrical, while the other tapers at the end and is capped with a sphere. The spherical ends are connected to two more rods that run vertically down to yet another machine. It is a contraption similar to a waterwheel with spokes of a bicycle wheel. This is tilted away from the viewer, almost to the point that it is indistinguishable. This in turn is placed on two elongated ovals, which are almost like runners. These support the wheel, along with the framework of a metal box that encases it and intersects with the Bachelors' "feet".
On the right-hand side of the Bachelors' Domain are four faint, circular images. The top one is a perfect circle. A little below that are three circular images tilted away from the viewer. The first has twelve spokes, each spoke consisting of three lines. The middle is made of six concentric circles. The bottom is prickly-looking circle with a small hole in the middle, consisting of outward spiraling lines.
The composition's most dominating feature is the series of spider web cracks, running diagonally from the top right to bottom left of the Bride's Domain, and in an almost figure eight from the top left to bottom right of the Bachelors' Domain forming flowery, flowing designs. Neither cracks nor paint disrupt the right, central plane, which is devoid of decoration, and around which the action of the art plays out. These occurred when the piece was being moved from its first exhibition, and after effecting the repair, Duchamp decided he admired the cracks: an element of chance that enhanced what he had done intentionally, following the flow of energy in the work's composition.
The piece is placed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art gallery beside The Green Box, the selection of Duchamp's own notes on The Large Glass. It stands in front of a window, from which natural light creates a varying atmosphere depending on the time of day, the weather, and the season. It is also surrounded by his other works – both paintings and "readymades" – which form a background which the work otherwise is lacking. In this sense, this image of a frozen machine becomes extremely dynamic and engaging to the viewer.
Duchamp's art does not lend itself to simple interpretations, and The Large Glass is no exception; the notes and diagrams he produced in association with the project – ostensibly as a sort of guidebook – complicate the piece by, for example, describing elements that were not included in the final version as though they nevertheless exist, and "explaining" the whole assembly in stream-of-consciousness prose thick with word play and jokes. Dubbed The Green Box, this 'explanatory work' has been described as "No less ambiguously or freely interpretable than the [The Large Glass] itself..." 
Linda Dalrymple Henderson picks up on Duchamp's idea of inventing a "playful physics" and traces a quirky Victorian physics out of the notes and The Large Glass itself; numerous mathematical and philosophical systems have been read out of (or perhaps into) its structures.
Most critics, however, read the piece as an exploration of male and female desire as they complicate each other. One critic, for example, describes the basic layout as follows: "The Large Glass has been called a love machine, but it is actually a machine of suffering. Its upper and lower realms are separated from each other forever by a horizon designated as the 'bride's clothes.' The bride is hanging, perhaps from a rope, in an isolated cage, or crucified. The bachelors remain below, left only with the possibility of churning, agonized masturbation."
However, modern critics see the painting as an expression of the artist to ridicule criticism. Marjorie Perloff interprets the painting as "enigmatic" (34) in her book "The Poetics of Indeterminacy: Rimbaud to Cage" (Princeton UP: 1999). She concludes that Duchamp's "Large Glass is also a critique of the very criticism it inspires, mocking the solemnity of the explicator who is determined to find the key" (34). Hence, she follows the school of deconstruction established by the French philosopher Derrida and helps to break down the hegemony of interpretation held by the Enlightenment bourgeoisie. To quote the artist: "I believe that the artist doesn't know what he does. I attach even more importance to the spectator than to the artist."
- Tomkins, Calvin: Duchamp: A Biography, Page 297.
- Cabannes, Pierre: Dialogues With Marcel Duchamp, page 109.
- Tomkins, Calvin: Duchamp: A Biography.
- The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even, Tate Collection
- Komaba Museum, the University of Tokyo
- Molderings, Herbert: "Duchamp and the Aesthetics of Chance". Columbia UP: 2010 (p. 8)
- Henderson, Linda Dalymple: "Marcel Duchamp's The King and Queen Surrounded by Swift Nudes (1912) and the Invisible World of Electrons", Weber Studies quarterly journal, Winter 1997, Volume 14.1.
- Mink, Janis: Marcel Duchamp, 1887–1968: Art as Anti-Art as reproduced at artchive.com.
- Duchamp, Marcel (1975). The Essential Writings of Marcel Duchamp: Salt Seller. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-01124-9.
- Golding, John, Fleming/Honour Ed.: Duchamp: The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even. London, The Penguin Press, 1973
- Hamilton, Richard: Typo/Topography of Marcel Duchamp's Large Glass, 2001–02.
- Henderson, Linda Dalrymple (1998). Duchamp In Context. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-12386-1.
- Tomkins, Calvin: Duchamp: A Biography. Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1996. ISBN 0-8050-5789-7.
- The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even is displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
- Making Sense of Marcel Duchamp by Andrew Stafford. Includes animation of The Large Glass
- Duchamp quotations regarding The Large Glass
- Kinetic Realization Duchamp's Bicycle Wheel with the Chocolate Grinder and Scissors of The Large Glass