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"God" by Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven and Morton Schamberg

Morton Schamberg (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1881–1918 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (German, 1874–1927)
Gelatin silver print
24.1 x 19.2 cm (9 1/2 x 7 9/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Elisha Whittelsey Collection, Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1973
Accession Number:
  • Description

    This photograph of a drain pipe attached to a miter box documents one of the most famous examples of American Dada. The sculpture God, a readymade in the spirit of Marcel Duchamp's upended urinal entitled Fountain, has traditionally been attributed to Schamberg, a talented photographer and painter who blended machine imagery and abstraction. Recent scholarship suggests, however, that this piece was primarily the creation of Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, who was without a doubt the most bizarre of the New York Dadaists. Poet, shoplifter, junk collector, and Duchamp worshiper, the homeless Baroness was famous for strolling the streets of Greenwich Village with cancelled postage stuck to her face and a birdcage with a live canary dangling from her neck. The irreverent title may allude to Duchamp's observation, "The only works of art America has given are her plumbing and her bridges." Schamberg, who probably aided in the realization of the piece in addition to photographing it, died in the influenza epidemic the following year. It is believed that aside from his portrait work, only seven Schamberg photographs survive. Three depict this sculpture and four present views of New York.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed and dated in pencil on mount, recto, BR: "Schamberg//1917"

  • Provenance

    [Terry Dintenfass Gallery, New York]; [Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, New York, 1973]

  • See also