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In the 1950s, Duchamp made a small number of moulded objects, based on the body’s sexual parts. They exemplify his fascination with sexual ambiguity. Female Fig Leaf was probably based on a mould of the sexual parts of the female mannequin in Duchamp's installation Etant Donnés(Given). The prudish title, Female Fig Leaf, is deliberately ironic. despite its phallic appearance and the fact that the French word ‘dard’ is slang for penis, could also derive from the cast of a vagina. It therefore embodies inside-outside, male-female dualities. Wedge of Chastity is the smallest of the three. The metal ‘wedge’ and the slit-form can also be seen as expressing the union of male and female shapes. Duchamp made the original version of the sculpture in 1954 as a wedding present for his second wife. It is reported that the couple kept it displayed on a bedside table and travelled with it, ‘like a wedding ring’.

August 2004