Marcel Duchamp

Dart Object

1951, cast 1962

Not on display

Marcel Duchamp 1887–1968
Original title
Object: 78 × 197 × 90 mm
Purchased with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1997


In the 1950s Duchamp created a series of four small-scale 'erotic objects': Not a Shoe (1950, Jedermann Collection), Female Fig Leaf (1961 bronze cast, Tate Gallery T07279), Dart Object (1962 bronze cast, Tate Gallery T07280), and Wedge of Chastity (1963 bronze and dental plastic edition, Tate Gallery T07281). Not a Shoe is thought to be an early version of the wedge section in Wedge of Chastity. After Duchamp's death, these pieces were found to be connected with Etant donnés, or Given, the piece on which Duchamp worked in secret between 1946 and 1966 and which is now installed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Etant donnés can be seen as a three-dimensional realisation of the action alluded to in The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (replica in Tate Gallery, T02011). Etant donnés consists of an elaborate erotic tableau of a female nude with legs spread, and is viewed through a peep-hole in a wooden door.

The French title, Objet-Dard, is a pun on 'objet d'art', or work of art. The word 'dard', or 'dart', suggests masculine aggression, but the limp phallic form could as easily refer to impotence as to sexual satisfaction. Dart Object was based on a part of the mould of Etant donnés that had been situated directly under the breast of the 'bride', holding the 'skin' in place. After he had finished with the mould, Duchamp broke it, and the shape of one of the broken pieces gave Duchamp the idea of using it as a work of art. Inverting the scriptural source in which Eve is created from Adam's rib, Duchamp creates an emphatically male symbol from a rib-like structure in a model of a female figure. The raised strip along the upper surface, painted silver, echoes the strip of lead inlaid in the original plaster.

The original piece was made in 1951 (Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris). In 1962 the Galleria Schwarz, Milan, made an edition of eight in bronze, of which this is number one. Two additional casts were made for the artist and Arturo Schwarz.

Further reading:
Arturo Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, revised edition, New York 1997, I, p.228, II, pp.800-1 (1951 plaster reproduced)

Terry Riggs
October 1997

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Display caption

This phallic form was based on a broken piece of the mould from another sculpture. It originally helped to support the underside of the breast on a female nude in Duchamp’s installation Etant donnés. By creating a male form from a rib-like structure in a female figure, Duchamp was inverting the Book of Genesis, in which Eve is created from Adam’s rib. The French word ‘dard’ (dart) is slang for penis, and the original title Objet-Dard is a pun on ‘objet d’art’, or work of art.

Gallery label, August 2009

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry

Marcel Duchamp 1887–1968
Dart Object
1951, cast 1962
Bronze and paint
78 x 197 x 90 mm
Cast inscription ‘Marcel Duchamp’ and stamped edition number ‘1/8’ along the bottom inside of the curve; cast inscription ‘OBJET DARD’ on top of the rib end; raised stamped inscription impressed before casting ‘EDITION DE LA | GALERIE SCHWARZ | MILAN 1962’ on the underside.
Purchased with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1997
Tate T07280
Ownership history:
Purchased by Andy Warhol, New York, from Galerie Schwarz, Milan; from whom acquired by Mark Kelman, New York; sold to L & R Entwistle, London, from whom purchased by Tate in 1997.
Exhibition history:
1996     de ou par MARCEL DUCHAMP ou ROSE SELAVY, Entwistle Gallery, London, May–July 1996, no.51.
2001     Surrealism: Desire Unbound, Tate Modern, London, September 2001–January 2002, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, February–May 2002, p.292, reproduced fig.284.
2006     Vicious Circle, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, September–November 2006.
2007     Seduced: Art and Sex, Barbican Art Gallery, London, October 2007–January 2008.
2008     Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia, Tate Modern, London, February–May 2008 and Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunia, Barcelona, June–October 2008, p.161 reproduced p.160, fig.206.

1959     Robert Lebel, Marcel Duchamp, trans. by George Heard Hamilton, New York 1959, p.56.
1964     Walter Hopps, Ulf Linde, Arturo Schwarz, Marcel Duchamp: Ready-mades, etc. (1913–1964), Milan 1964, pp.65 and 82.
1965     NOT SEEN and / or LESS SEEN of / by MARCEL DUCHAMP / RROSE SELAVY 1904–64, exhibition catalogue, Cordier & Ekstrom Inc., New York 1964, no.85, pp.7, 70.
1966     The Almost Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1966, p.75.
1969     Cleve Gray, ‘Marcel Duchamp 1887–1968’, Art in America, vol.57, no.4, July–August 1969, pp.20–7.
1971     Pierre Cabanne, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, Paris 1971, p.88.
1973     Anne d’Harnoncourt and Kynaston McShine, Marcel Duchamp, exhibition catalogue, Philadelphia Museum of Art 1973, pp.146, 308.
1973     Anne d’Harnoncourt and Walter Hopps, Etant Donnés: 1° la chute d’eau / 2° le gaz d’éclairage: Reflections on a New Work by Marcel Duchamp, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973, pp.35 and 39.
1973     Robert Pincus-Witten, ‘Theater of the Conceptual: Autobiography and Myth’, Artforum, vol.12, no.2, October 1973, pp. 40–6. Reprinted in Joseph Masheck (ed.), Marcel Duchamp in Perspective, New Jersey 1975, pp.162–3.
1977     Jean Clair, Marcel Duchamp: Catalogue raisonné, Centre national d’art et de culture Georges Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris 1977, vol.2, p.129.
1984     Francis Naumann, The Mary and William Sisler Collection, Museum of Modern Art, New York 1984, no.79, p.217.
1989     Craig Adcock, ‘Duchamp’s Eroticism: A Mathematical Analysis’, in Kuenzli and Naumann (eds.), Marcel Duchamp: Artist of the Century, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London 1989, pp.161–2.
1989     Dalia Judovitz, ‘Rendezvous with Marcel Duchamp: Given’, in Marcel Duchamp: Artist of the Century, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London 1989, pp.193–4.
1989     Ecke Bonk, Marcel Duchamp: The Portable Museum, Munich and London 1989, p.255, no.80.
1994     Amelia Jones, Postmodernism and the En-Gendering of Marcel Duchamp, Cambridge 1994, pp.91–3.
1995     Dalia Judovitz, Unpacking Marcel Duchamp: Art in Transit, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London 1995, p.216.
1995     Feminin Masculin: Le Sexe de l’art, exhibition catalogue, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 1995, p.76.
1995     Jerrold Seigel, The Private Worlds of Marcel Duchamp, Berkeley and Los Angeles 1995, pp.195–8.
1995     Glaube Hoffnung Liebe Tod, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna 1995, p.365.
1997     Georges Didi-Huberman, L’Empreinte, exhibition catalogue, Centre Georges Pomidou, Paris 1997, pp.151, 153–7, 198 and 201.
1998     Juan Antonio Ramirez, Duchamp: Love and Death, Even, trans. by Alexander R. Tulloch, London 1998, pp.243–4.
1999     Dawn Ades, Neil Cox and David Hopkins, Marcel Duchamp, London 1999, pp.187–8.
1999     Francis Naumann, The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, New York 1999, pp.170–1, 181, 221–2, 257 and 289.
2000     Arturo Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, revised and expanded edition, New York 2000, p.228, no.542, pp.800–1.
2002     Marcel Duchamp, exhibition catalogue, Museum Jean Tinguely, Basel 2002, pp.138–9.
2003     Edward D. Powers, ‘Fasten your Seatbelts as We Prepare for our Nude Descending’, Tout-Fait: The Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal, no.5, 2003,, accessed 14 June 2007.
2005     Helen Molesworth, Part Object Part Sculpture, exhibition catalogue, Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus 2005, pp.29, 160, 179, 180, 182, 185 and 193.
2005     Jonathan Wallis, ‘Case Open and/or Unsolved: Étant donnés, The Black Dahlia Murder, and Marcel Duchamp’s Life of Crime’, Tout-Fait: The Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal, 2005,, accessed 23 May 2007.
2009     Michael R. Taylor, Etant donnés, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2009, pp.79–81, reproduced p.323, pl.43.

The original Dart Object (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris) was completed in 1951, made from electroplated plaster with an inlaid lead rib. It is a curved object, raised at one end in an irregular shape that recalls the knuckle of a bone. The title and artist’s name are incised into a smooth oval at the highest point of this end. The object’s underside is flat, permitting it to rest on an even surface. The rib is narrow and evenly formed, resembling a section of human or animal rib.
In November 1962 Galerie Schwarz, Milan issued an edition of eight numbered bronze casts and two additional unnumbered casts, one for the gallery’s owner Arturo Schwarz and one for Duchamp.[1] Tate’s copy is the first in the numbered edition. It belonged to the artist Andy Warhol (1928–87), a great fan of Duchamp; the artist Jasper Johns (born 1930) owned another copy in the edition. Each bronze example has silver paint on the raised rib that runs along its length, mimicking the inlaid lead rib of the original. Apart from the silver paint, the bronze is unpatinated and has oxidised naturally through handling and exposure to air, resulting in a rich brown colour. The inscription OBJET-DARD is cast on top, following the plaster original; the artist’s name appears as an incised inscription in copperplate writing on the inside curve, with the number 1/8 stamped into the bronze to the inscription’s right. A raised stamp on the flat underside cites ‘EDITION DE LA GALERIE SCHWARZ MILAN 1962’.

First exhibited with Female Fig Leaf 1950 (Tate T07279) in Duchamp’s joint exhibition with Francis Picabia (1873–1953) at Rose Fried Gallery, New York in 1953–4,[2] the original Dart Object was described as a ‘bizarre artefact’ by Stuart Preston writing in the New York Times,[3] while a reviewer for the Art Digest said that both objects ‘reveal a command of sculptural design as well as a characteristic stab of malice’.[4] In his 1959 publication, Robert Lebel introduced Dart Object as one of ‘two “sculptures” [the artist created] in rapid succession ... a phallic ready-made’.[5] In his introduction to Duchamp’s exhibition at Cordier & Ekstrom, New York in early 1965, the artist Richard Hamilton wrote that Duchamp, ‘gave life to clay – he made Man (Object Dart [sic]), Woman (Female Fig Leaf) and symbol of their union (Wedge of Chastity)’.[6] Hamilton later described it as ‘a companion piece to’ Female Fig Leaf created the previous year.[7]

In 1969 in the Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin, the curators Anne d’Harnoncourt and Walter Hopps introduced the Dart Object as having ‘the random look of part of a mold for something else’.[8] The publication of Duchamp’s catalogue raisonné by Arturo Schwarz the same year revealed the object’s true origin: Dart Object is, in fact, a by-product of Duchamp’s last major work, unveiled only after his death in 1968, Etant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage 1946–66 (Philadelphia Museum of Art).[9] This complex installation centres on a naked female body lying, with her legs splayed, on a bed of leaves and twigs, viewable only through two peepholes in an oak door. It is believed to have been created from casts of Duchamp’s lover, the Brazilian artist Maria Martins (1900–73; their passionate affair dated from some time around 1945 or 1946 until 1952), made first in plaster and then moulded in parchment. The fragile work went through many processes and not a few accidents, some of which are documented in letters Duchamp wrote to Martins in 1951. In 1949 the life-casting specialist Ettore Salvatore had made a plaster cast of Martins that became a full-scale sculpture.[10] Duchamp made several moulds from this in plaster, plastilene and paraffin wax before finally settling on plaster for the armature under the parchment (attached to it with brass nails) and paraffin wax for the mould that would hold the dampened, flexible parchment in place as it dried and shrunk. Several by-products of this elaborate process emerged: Dart Object derives from a piece of the plaster armature under the breast of the female nude over which the parchment was stretched while the glue and skin dried. The armature broke in several places when Duchamp removed it, and resulted in two similarly shaped narrow curving objects from under the right and left breasts, a U-shaped curve never exhibited during the artist’s lifetime – Untitled (Erotic Object)[11] – and the more phallic Dart Object. Almost certainly made at the same time, but only made public knowledge with Michael R. Taylor’s in-depth analysis of Etant donnés published in 2009, Untitled (Erotic Object) has a symmetrical form that is less erotically suggestive than the angled curve of Dart Object.[12] In addition, Wedge of Chastity (Tate T07281), Not a Shoe 1950 (Jedermann Collection) from which it was derived, and Female Fig Leaf (Tate T07279) were all developed from parts of the plaster armature on which the skin was stretched, or from the mould that forced the parchment into place from the other side, as well as two further erotic objects not exhibited during the artist’s life.[13] Duchamp had all the original erotic objects electroplated with copper, adding lead strips to Dart Object and the U-shaped Untitled (Erotic Object). In a letter to Martins dated 12 February 1951, he wrote: ‘Here: nothing. A delicious nothing with my little electroplated plaster casts.’[14] Chance had provided him with sculptural fragments in shapes that he liked and which he could use to make new works, suggesting parts of bodies but impossible to pin down.[15]

Word-play is a central mechanism in Duchamp’s work, visible in his frequent use of puns, the sexual double-entendre, untranslatable combinations of English and French, and even the use of nonsense or meaningless phrases, either to obscure or to add further layers of meaning.[16] Dada in origin and spirit, this use of language was inspired by the word games of the writer Raymond Roussel (1877–1933) whose play, Impressions d’Afrique (1910), had a profound effect on Duchamp’s artistic development. The title of Dart Object [Objet-dard] is a pun on the notion of the art object or objet d’art, transforming art into dard in French, meaning dart or javelin – an aggressive phallic form, appropriated in French vernacular as slang for penis. In early reproductions – such as Robert Lebel’s 1959 monograph and catalogue raisonné, the 1964 publication accompanying the exhibition of Duchamp’s replicated readymades and editioned casts, and in the artist’s 1977 retrospective catalogue at the Centre Pompidou, Paris – photographs taken looking down on the object are dramatically rotated to emphasise its phallic qualities.[17] That the first two of these were published during Duchamp’s lifetime and under his supervision suggests that this was an emphasis he approved.

In 1977 the curator and writer Jean Clair commented that, ‘more than a sexual complement, an organic solidarity with the preceding work should be seen; if the Female Fig Leaf is the cast of the external parts of a female pubis, it is not implausible to think that Dart Object completes the survey with an imprint in some ways ... more internal’.[18] Clair goes on to compare Duchamp’s inside-outside play with the anatomical sketches of Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) – which he calls ‘reflections on the reversibility of a single organ, able to invert itself like the finger of a glove’.[19] Clair also cites the Hungarian psychoanalyst Sándor Ferenczi (1873–1933) who envisaged the vagina as the fantasy of a hollow penis, and masculine aggression (le coté ‘dard’) as inverted feminine masochism.

In conversations held with the writer and curator Pierre Cabanne in Paris in 1966, Duchamp commented:

I believe in eroticism a lot, because it’s truly a rather widespread thing throughout the world, a thing that everyone understands. It replaces, if you wish, what other literary schools called Symbolism, Romanticism. It could be another ‘ism’, so to speak. You’re going to tell me that there can be eroticism in Romanticism, also. But if eroticism is used as a principal basis, a principal end, then it takes the form of an ‘ism’, in the sense of a school ... I don’t give it a personal definition, but basically it’s really a way to try to bring out in the daylight things that are constantly hidden – and that aren’t necessarily erotic – because of the Catholic religion, because of social rules. To be able to reveal them, and to place them at everyone’s disposal – I think this is important because it’s the basis of everything, and no one talks about it. Eroticism was a theme, even an ‘ism’ which was the basis of everything I was doing at the time of the Large Glass. It kept me from being obligated to return to already existing theories, aesthetic or otherwise.[20]

Recent commentators have interpreted its aggression (if we understand the active phallic position as aggressive) as being more ambiguous. Writing in 1995, the historian Jerrold Seigel referred to it as ‘certainly phallic, but the penis it offers is limp’.[21] He goes on to comment that while in its limp state it might be read as invoking the post-coital petit mort, ‘by itself the state it represents could be impotence just as well as satisfaction, suggesting even an inability to distinguish between the two’.[22] Seigel bases his interpretation on Duchamp’s comment on marrying Alexina (Teeny) Matisse in 1954 at their advance stage in life (she was forty-seven, he sixty-six) that his wife was too old to conceive. Seigel goes on to cite Freudian theory but concludes his reflection that ‘it seems unlikely ... that an impotent person who valued his own mental powers would have spoken about grasping things with the mind “in the same way the penis is grasped by the vagina”’.[23] More recently, in 2002 the theorist Elisabeth Bronfen called Dart Object ‘a phallic ornament that also looks like a rib, could, however be punningly interpreted as a serpent’s tongue or a poisoned arrow’.[24] However, in 2005 the curator Helen Molesworth wrote that Dart Object is ‘simultaneously phallic and scatological, flaccid and abject. Despite the object’s nuanced psychological address, there is a whiff of the schoolboy snicker about it as well.’[25]

In her essay in the catalogue for her exhibition Part Object, Part Sculpture Molesworth explores the status of the erotic objects (Tate T07279, Tate T07280 and Tate T07281) as ‘part objects’ in the psychoanalytic sense proposed by Melanie Klein in the late 1940s.[26] She compares this to the concept of the ‘transitional object’ as conceived by another psychoanalyst in the first half of the last century, D.W. Winnicott, with which she identifies the readymades.[27] The transitional object is selected by the child as it separates from its mother and functions as a ‘psychic talisman ... such objects are nothing if not deeply familiar’,[28] in other words usually banal objects from everyday life. Over the years as the child grows up the transitional object is not forgotten but it loses meaning because the transitional phenomenon – the need for the object to provide comfort to the child – has become diffused, in other words, the growing adult is finding other means – in relationships with other adults – to satisfy this need. Unlike Klein’s part object, which assumes the role of fetish object onto which the child projects all its fears and desires for the (lost) maternal body, Winnicott argues that the transitional object does not have symbolic value but actual value, which means that the transitional object ‘gives room for the process of becoming able to accept the difference between difference and similarity’.[29] For Molesworth, Duchamp’s original readymades have the status of transitional objects. But the erotic objects – Female Fig Leaf, Wedge of Chastity and Dart Object – are stuck in the realm of the fetishist’s part object: parts of bodies to which the subject has no further access, onto which he or she may project aggression and desire. As Moleworth points out, it is significant that Duchamp created editioned replicas of his readymades – such as Fountain 1917 (Tate T07573) – changing their status from found (and subsequently lost) industrially manufactured objects to carefully crafted fine art objects, shortly after releasing the editioned erotic objects in 1964.[30]

The history of the making of Dart Object, known only since the unveiling of Etant donnés in 1968, adds piquancy to the suggestively phallic object – that of gender-reversing myth. In the Old Testament, God creates Eve from Adam’s rib; with Dart Object Duchamp created a phallic form (and in Freudian theory the phallus also symbolises the baby) from a female surrogate rib. Mirroring and inversion are central strategies in Duchamp’s oeuvre, whether in the field of gender – giving rise to his female alter-ego Rrose Sélavy – or in the processes of making sculpture through the manipulation of negative and positive shapes and an exploration of the three-dimensional imprint.
Elizabeth Manchester
May 2010
Supported by the AHRC Research Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacies.


[1] Although Galleria Schwarz was not involved in the editioning of Female Fig Leaf (Tate T07279) the previous year, it produced a similar edition of Wedge of Chastity (Tate T07281) in 1963.

[2] The exhibition ran from December 1953–January 1954. In addition to the two erotic objects – Dart Object was listed as ‘sculpture’ while Female Fig Leaf was cited as ‘plaster cast’ – Duchamp exhibited a Boîte en Valise (see L02092), twelve Rotoreliefs and a Green Box (see Tate T07744).
[3] Francis Naumann, The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, New York 1999, pp.181, 205 note 11.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Robert Lebel, Marcel Duchamp, trans. by George Heard Hamilton, New York 1959, p.56. Lebel describes the second of the two sculptures, Female Fig Leaf, as ‘simulating a cast of the female organ’.
[6] Richard Hamilton, ‘Introduction’, NOT SEEN and / or LESS SEEN of / by MARCEL DUCHAMP / RROSE SELAVY 1904–64, exhibition catalogue, Cordier & Ekstrom Inc., New York 1964, p.8.
[7] This is how Hamilton described it in The Almost Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, the exhibition catalogue to Duchamp’s retrospective at the Tate Gallery, London held in 1966 (p.75). Jean Clair took this up in his catalogue to the 1977 Pompidou retrospective, (p.129).
[8] Reprinted as a monograph in 1973 (Anne d’Harnoncourt and Walter Hopps, Etant Donnés: 1º la chute d’eau, 2º le gaz d’éclairage: Reflections on a New Work by Marcel Duchamp, Philadelphia Museum of Art 1973, p.35).
[9] Arturo Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, London 1969, p.526 no.335.
[10] Michael R. Taylor, Etant donnés, Philadelphia Museum of Art 2009, p.79.
[11] Reproduced in ibid., p.230, fig.A1 and p.324, pl.44.
[12] Ibid., p.81.
[13] Ibid., p.231.
[14] Ibid., p.419.
[15] Calvin Tomkins, Duchamp: A Biography, London 1998, p.377.
[16] One of the most famous examples of Duchamp’s use of the sexual double-entendre is the name he chose for his alter-ego: Rrose Sélavy, which phonetically spells ‘eros c’est la vie’ or ‘eros, that’s life’. The obscure title 3 stoppages étalon which has been translated as 3 Standard Stoppages (Tate T07507) has a different resonance in each language, as the French word stoppages means ‘invisible mending’ and has nothing to do with the notion of an English ‘stoppage’. Duchamp’s use of nonsensical words or phrases is exemplified by the addition of the word ‘même’ or ‘even’ to the title La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même, which translates as The Bride Laid Bare by Her Batchelors, Even (Tate T02011).
[17] See Lebel 1959, p.152; Walter Hopps, Ulf Linde, Arturo Schwarz, Marcel Duchamp: Ready-mades, etc. (1913–1964), Milan 1964, p.65; and Jean Clair, Marcel Duchamp: Catalogue raisonné, Centre national d’art et de culture Georges Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris 1977, vol.2, p.129, pl.28.
[18] Clair 1977, p.129.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Quoted in Pierre Cabanne, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, London 1971, p.88.
[21] Jerrold Seigel, The Private Worlds of Marcel Duchamp, Berkeley and Los Angeles 1995, p.195.
[22] Ibid.
[23] Ibid., p.198.
[24] Elisabeth Bronfen, ‘Infra-Thin Encounters of an Erotic Kind: Duchamp’s Game with Gender Difference’, in Marcel Duchamp, exhibition catalogue, Museum Jean Tinguely, Basel 2002, p.150.
[25] Helen Molesworth, Part Object Part Sculpture, exhibition catalogue, Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus, 2005, p.181.
[26] Ibid.
[27] Ibid., pp.194–200 (see ‘Where the erotic objects are Kleinian part objects, the readymades are Winnicottian transitional objects’, p.197).
[28] Ibid., p.198.
[29] Winnicott quoted in ibid., p.198.
[30] This remaking – specifically hand-crafting – of utilitarian industrially-produced objects endowed them with the value of commodity fetishes through their place in the art market, adding a further layer to their status as cultural fetishes through their history as having been lost.


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