In 1943, Duchamp rented a studio on the top floor of a building located at 210 West 14th
Street in New York City. While everyone believed that Duchamp had given up "art,"
he was secretly constructing this tableau, begun in 1946, which was not completed until
The full title of the piece (in English) is:
Given: 1 The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas. It consists of an old wooden door,
bricks, velvet, twigs gathered by Duchamp on his walks in the park,
leather stretched over a metal armature of a female form, glass, linoleum, an electric motor,
etc. Duchamp prepared a "Manual of Instructions" in a 4-ring binder which
explains and illustrates the process of assembling/disassembling the piece.
(See Duchamp, Marcel. Manual of Instructions for Étant Donnés:
1º La Chute D'eau 2º Le Gaz D'éclairage...,
Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1987). It was not revealed to the public until July of 1969,
(several months after Duchamp's death), when it was permanently installed in
the Philadelphia Museum of Art. No photographs of the interior of the piece or
of the notebook of instructions were allowed to be published by the museum for at least 15 years.
The viewer of the piece first steps onto a mat in front of the door, which activates the lights, motor, etc., and then peers through two "peepholes" to view the construction behind the door. The voyeur strains, unsuccessfully, to see the "face" of the eerily realistic nude female form which lies supine on a bed of twigs, illuminated gas lamp in hand. In the distance, a sparkling waterfall shimmers, backlit by a flickering light, part of a realistically rendered landscape painting on glass.