54. Here and in The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams (New York: New Directions, 1967) he also circulated some of the legends about her periodic arrests for stealing and indecent exposure, her cleptomania, and the fact that she owned animals that acted out exactly what Williams feared in relation to the Baroness herself (copulating on her bed in front of him; see the Autobiography, 168). Williams notes that he visited the Baroness in “the most unspeakably ?lthy tenement in the city. Romantically, mystically dirty, of grimy walls, dark, gaslit halls and narrow stairs, it smelt of black waterclosets, one to a ?oor, with low gas?ame always burning and torn newspapers trodden in the wet. Waves of stench thickened on each landing as one moved up” (“Sample Prose Piece,” 11). Biddle described her extremely sympathetically as “the most sensitive, critically understanding, and emotionally generous” of all the collectors he had known. Biddle, An American Artist’s Story, 141. He is writing here of her as an art collector, but much of his article is devoted to describing her collection of urban detritus.
Gammel points out the wordplay of the piece, as well as the connection between “swish” and homosexual male culture from that period
57. On Duchamp’s careful placement of his work in museums, see my chapter 3, “The Living Author-Function: Duchamp’s Authority,” in Postmodernism and the En-Gendering of p, 63–109.
These descriptions are cited from Irene Gammel’s “Lashing with Beauty: Baroness Elsa and the emergence of Assemblage Art in America,” in The Art of Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, 14
55. Anais Nin, “Ragtime,” in her Under a Glass Bell and Other Stories (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1948), 59. 56. The Bicycle Wheel is dated 1913 (Duchamp “made” the ?rst version while still in Paris), and Duchamp discusses it as his ?rst readymade in Pierre Cabanne, ed., Dialogues
58. Cathedral is miscatalogued as four inches high in Gammel, Baroness Elsa, plate 10, n.p.; and in The Art of Baroness Elsa von FreytagLoringhoven (New York: Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, 2002), 8. I am grateful to Gammel for providing me in a personal email with the accurate height, 10 7/16 in. 59. As Wanda Corn has noted, the Woolworth guardian soulmates Building was known as the Cathedral of Commerce; see The Great American Thing, 156. See also Gammel, Baroness Elsa, 235 on the Baroness’s title. 60. The original piece was lost or destroyed, although Man Ray’s photograph of it remains. The bronze version is reproduced in Schwarz, New York Dada, 106, ?g. 68. 61. In 1916 a new building code restricted the circumference of skyscraper towers to 25 percent of the footprint of the building for fear that large, bulky towers would block out all the light in the city; this code led to the building of hundreds of stepped-back buildings, producing exactly the kind of ragged skyline Man Ray’s piece imitates. See Hirsh, Between the Rivers, 91. 62. Pile, The Body and the City, 221, 223.
63. Berenice Abbott, from an interview with Gisela von Freytag-Loringhoven, a descendant of the Baron’s family who has taken an interest in the Baroness; cited in her afterword to Gammel, Baroness Elsa, 396. See also Gammel’s rich analysis of the many levels of meaning evoked by Limbswish (188–189). 64. From a handwritten manuscript in the Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven Collection, Special Collections, University of Maryland at College Park Libraries, Series 2, Box 2. The strange punctuation here is original; the words handwritten by the Baroness are in all capitals but I have chosen only to capitalize the ?rst letters of each line as this was generally how her poems were published at the time. 65. This catalogue accompanied the ?rst single-woman show devoted to the Baroness’s life work. Thanks to Francis Naumann’s generosity, I was able to see this show, and the four remaining assemblage objects (other than God, which is on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art), before it of?cially opened. 66. Gammel, Baroness Elsa, 189. 67. Nin, “Ragtime,” 60.