Prostitution universelle (Universal Prostitution) Artist: Francis Picabia (French, 1879–1953)


Prints and Drawings

In the 1910s, the French avant-garde artist Francis Picabia made a series of playful, enigmatic works combining machine imagery with allusions to human sexuality. As opposed to the triumphalist narratives of technological progress that were widespread in the early twentieth century, Picabia’s “erotic” machines appear in a state of whimsical dysfunction: they seem to reflect the foibles of human nature, rather than transcend them. Picabia’s images gently mocked ideologies of masculinist militarism at a moment when Europe was engulfed in the mechanized violence of the First World War. This sardonic approach to political and social currents was typical of the Dadaist spirit, with which Picabia was associated in New York, Paris, and Zürich. The words trailing across this image read, “invite . . . ignore . . . human body,” a message of failed desire and frustrated intent rather than of technological mastery.


Black ink, tempera, and metallic paint on cardboard


29 5/16 × 37 1/16 in. (74.5 × 94.2 cm)
framed: 30 × 37 3/4 in. (76.2 × 95.89 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Collection Société Anonyme

Accession Number



20th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Gift of Marcel Duchamp, 1924
  • Tracy Fitzpatrick, When Modern Was Conntemporary: The Roy R. Neuberger Collection, exh. cat. (Purchase, N.Y.: Neuberger Museum of Art, 2014), 185, fig. 1
  • Christopher Butler, Modernism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 29, fig. 6
  • Ruth L. Bohan et al., The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America, ed. Jennifer Gross, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2006), 181, ill
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

abstract (general art genre)


Inscribed in black ink u.r. "PROSTITUTION/ universelle; u.c. "CONVIER...IGNORER...CORPS HUMAIN..." l.r. "SEXE FEMININ IDEOLOGIQUE" and "SAC DE VOYAGE"

Technical metadata and APIs


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