The Game of Chance: Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass and Nineteenth-Century French Political Caricatures

Gal Ventura*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915–1923), also known as The Large Glass, is one of Marcel Duchamp's most complex works and has elicited a wealth of scholarly suggestions as to its meaning and sources of inspiration. Nevertheless, although it is recognized that Duchamp’s early practice as a maker of cartoons paved the way for an oeuvre replete in wit and wordplay, the inspiration Duchamp drew from well-known French caricatures received almost no attention. To fill this void, the present article proposes that The Large Glass was based on the caricature A New Game of Rings, issued by Charles Vernier on the eve of the 1848 presidential elections for the Second Republic. Upon close inspection, Vernier's satirical cartoon suggests not only the composition of The Large Glass, but also themes that are central to Duchamp’s oeuvre: games, absurdity, and hilarity; chance, whether uncontrolled or controlled; and the dichotomy between male and female, reality and idea. Moreover, the political scenario presented in the mid-nineteenth century caricature had considerable relevance for the situation of the Third Republic when Duchamp created his work. Thus the tragicomedy of the Bride and her Bachelors represented in The Large Glass may be said to epitomize the changing relationship between Marianne–the female personification of the Republic–and the French people during the turmoil of the First World War.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)249-272
Number of pages24
JournalKonsthistorisk Tidskrift
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020

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