1887, Blainville, France - 1968, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Rectified Readymade: pencil on reproduction
30 x 23 cm
The Vera and Arturo Schwarz Collection of Dada and Surrealist Art in the Israel Museum
© ADAGP, Paris, 2007
Accession number: B99.0575
The original 1919 version of L.H.O.O.Q is a cheap color photographic reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa (ca. 1505), on which Duchamp drew a mustache and beard. L.H.O.O.Q. is an early example of Duchamp's readymades (mass-produced objects defined as works of art simply by virtue of their selection by an artist). This radical new definition of the art object marked a turning point in the perception and conception of art in the twentieth century. It also expressed the spirit of the Dada movement, to which Duchamp belonged, as a desecration of the past.
The French pronunciation for L.H.O.O.Q. is "elle a chaud au cul" ("she has a hot ass"), and so one of the most sublime-and chaste-portrayals of a woman in the history of painting becomes sexually suggestive. Duchamp adds a further twist by transforming the sitter's gender from female to male. In a 1961 interview he said, "The curious thing about that mustache and goatee is that when you look at it the Mona Lisa becomes a man. It is not a woman disgu