Rrose Sélavy, or Rose Sélavy, was one of the pseudonyms of artist Marcel Duchamp. The name, a pun, sounds like the French phrase "Eros, c'est la vie", which translates to English as "eros, that's life". It has also been read as "arroser la vie" ("to make a toast to life").
Sélavy emerged in 1921 in a series of photographs by Man Ray of Duchamp dressed as a woman. Through the 1920s, Man Ray and Duchamp collaborated on more photos of Sélavy. Duchamp later used the name as the byline on written material and signed several creations with it.
Duchamp used the name in the title of at least one sculpture, Why Not Sneeze, Rose Sélavy? (1921). The sculpture, a type of readymade called an assemblage, consists of an oral thermometer, a couple dozen small cubes of marble resembling sugar cubes inside a birdcage. Sélavy also appears on the label of Belle Haleine, Eau de Voilette (1921), a readymade that is a perfume bottle in the original box. Duchamp also signed his film Anemic Cinema (1926) with the Sélavy name.
From 1922 the name Rrose Sélavy also started appearing in a series of aphorisms, puns and spoonerisms by the French surrealist poet Robert Desnos. Desnos tried to portray Rrose Sélavy as a long lost aristocrat and rightful queen of France. Aphorism 13 paid homage to Marcel Duchamp: "Rrose Sélavy connaît bien le marchand du sel" [in English: "Rrose Sélavy knows the merchant of salt well"; in French the final words sound like Mar-champ Du-cel -- Duchamp's compiled notes are titled 'Salt Seller']. (Note that the 'salt seller' aphorism - "mar-chand-du-sel" - is a phonetic rearrangement of the syllables in the artist's actual name: "mar-cel-du-champ.") In 1939 a collection of these aphorisms was published under the name of Rrose Sélavy, entitled Poils et coups de pieds en tous genres.
The inspiration of the name Rrose Sélavy has been viewed to be Belle da Costa Greene, J.P. Morgan's librarian of The Morgan Library & Museum (formerly The Pierpont Morgan Library) who, following his death, became the Library's director, working there for a total of forty-three years. Empowered by J.P. Morgan, and then by his son Jack, Greene built the collection buying and selling rare manuscripts, books and art.
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