Etant donnes- Duchamp's Homage To Her Killer?

In his enigmatic Etant donnes did Marcel Duchamp secretly pay homage to George Hodel, just as Hodel paid homage to Marcel’s closest friend, Man Ray?

Marcel Duchamp’s Etant donnes


 Compared to Black Dahlia crime scene

Etant donnes to crimescene.jpg

Click below for Video Montage

You-Tube Etant donnes-Black Dahlia Montage by Salvador Dalinian


YouTube-second Black Dahlia Montage “Surrealist Avenger” by Salvador Dalinian (9.6.09)


I’m not going to blog through a restatement of all of the intellectual theories in support of the argument that there was a very real link between George Hodel, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, William Copley, and all of the other surrealists. Suffice it to say that over the past decade much has been written and the best of it can be found at Mark Nelson and Sarah Bayliss’ web and blog sites- Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder.



Rather, than wade through a quagmire of thoughts, ideas and opinions, let’s have some fun. Dada went to his office and Moma is having tea with her friends in the backyard. So, let’s play a game- Let’s pretend we can fly, time-travel, and do anything we want. We are only limited by our own imaginations. Here we go.

Let’s jump into BOTH of the pictures (above) and go back to January 15, 1947. Ready?  One-two-three, JUMP! We made it! Our left foot is in Duchamp’s, Etant donnes scene and our right foot is in the actual crime-scene. What do we see? 

Everything on the ground in front of us looks just like it does in the two different pictures. Let’s look up. What do we see?  In Marcel’s scene looking over her left hand to the northeast, in the far distance there is a tall tree and several bushes. They are faraway but still big.

OK, now let’s jump back into the actual crime scene?  Looking in the same direction over her left hand what do we see? The same thing. We see a tall tree and bushes. No, wait a minute that is not a tree. It’s something else. It’s a building. A tall building and those are not bushes next to it they are smaller buildings. I know what it is now. I recognize it. It’s the L.A. City Hall, the police building like on the LAPD badges. .

Let’s fly to the real City Hall in the real crime scene and see how far away it is–Hang on!   Let’s follow the line to City Hall. It is on the exact same angle as it is in Duchamp’s picture.  That was quick! It’s – 6 miles.

(Below view is as Marcel Duchamp would have seen it if he had actually gone to the crime scene with his best friend, Man Ray during his 1948 visit and stay in Los Angeles. The city hall seen in the distance was then, and remains today, L.A.’s most recognizable building.)



Position of body in Etant donnes & crime-scene on-line to City Hall (tall tree) are EXACT.


Bushes or Buildings?


OK, that was fun, but enough playing for today.  Moma will be looking for us and Dada will be home any minute, so– back to REALITY.



 In BDA Chapter 19 The Final Connections: Man Ray Thoughtprints (pages 239-256) written some eight-years ago, I provided what I believed to be compelling evidence showing my father’s crime to be an homage to Surrealism as well as a very cryptic wink-and-nod acknowledging his close friendship to his Hollywood Dadaist-in-residence-Man Ray. (I also believe it was a one-upmanship, as if to say to Man Ray and perhaps to “The Movement” in general, “Top this!”)

In that early chapter I made reference to the following associations/connections linking George Hodel to both Man Ray and Surrealism:

1. George Hodel’s surgical mimicry of of Man Ray’s two famous artworks: Les Amoureux (The Lovers Lips) and his The Minoutaure (Woman bisected with arms posed above her head) in his crime scene signatures.

            Crime scene                                                 Man Ray Lovers photo


.          Crime Scene                                                       Man Ray  Minotaur photo

Minotaur compare.JPG                                                                               

2, George Hodel’s Avenger mailing of his “Werewolf Killer” (Armand Robles) in imitation of Man Ray’s, 1945, Juliet in Silk Stocking.


           Juliet Man Ray Hollywood 1945             Black Dahlia Avenger mailing 1947

stocking masks compare.jpg

3. George Hodel’s  Modesto’s Lovers  personally hand-delivered by George and June Hodel to Juliet Man Ray in Paris, circa 1987 as a further homage to his old friend Man Ray. (Man Ray had died a decade earlier.)


modestoloverslips to manrays.jpg

4. George Hodel’s reference in a personal letter (1980) to me of one of my active murder investigations as an “enigma inside a mystery” and my discovery of Man Ray’s photograph of the same name.

5. Man Ray’s 1946 photograph of George Hodel holding Yamantaka. (Photo shows the Tibetan God in the “yab-yum” position, having sexual intercourse with his consort, as George appears to look on in worshipful reverence. Yamantaka was a bull-headed deity and could be considered the Lamaistic counterpart to Man Ray’s own destroyer of maidens, the MINOTAUR.)

       George Hodel Man Ray photo 1946           Yamantaka in “yab-yum position                                                                     engaged in sexual intercourse with consort

ghh manray yamantaka.jpgThe Surrealists were all about” riddles wrapped in mysteries inside enigmas.”  Children of Dada playing with pictures and word games, hiding little “secrets” in their paintings and photographs. The uninitiated need not apply.  “Catch us if you can.”


William Copley- Another surrealist’s wink-and-nod?

“Man Ray is the Dada of us all.”

                                                               William Copley

As a P.S. I will here include what I consider to be one of Mark Nelson and Sarah Bayliss’ most important discoveries. The 1961 oil painting by surrealist, William Copley entitled, 

                  IT IS MIDNIGHT DR. _________.

It is midnight Dr. -----.jpg


Copley, Duchamp and Man Ray were the closest of friends. They were together in Hollywood. Copley visited Duchamp in New York in 1968, (a year before Marcel’s death) and at Duchamp’s request purchased his recently completed, Etant donnes with the understanding that Copley would gift the work to the Philadelphia Museum of Art after Duchamp’s death. Marcel Duchamp died in the fall of 1968 and his Etant donnes was installed at the museum on July 7, 1969.

I quote from Nelson & Bayliss’ Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism And The Black Dahlia Murder, page 144:

“It is Midnight Dr. _____” portrays a nude woman and a fully clothed man. The male figure appears at the upper left, holding a medical bag. The woman reclines near the bottom of the canvas like an odalisque. It is a classical pose, reminiscent of Aridne and so many other nudes in art history. She has closed eyes, a hint of a smile, and one hand resting on her forehead. Above her is an array of instruments, including a scalpel and two saws. It suggests that Copley, distanced from the crime scene by fourteen years and thousands of miles, had not forgotten it.”

UPDATE- 10.14.09-  Re. the above Copley painting, a recent email comment points out that in the above Copley painting there are five (5) surgical tools next to the unidentified doctor. The writer asks, “Could these be the letters of his name? She points out that the third letter appears to be a “D” and the fifth possibly an “L”. First name that came to her mind was:  H O D E L.

For those interested in further comments on the subject of the Black Dahlia & Surrealism, I would refer you to the forum at the following link.

Surrealist Cast of Characters (Nelson/Bayliss created Map)

Duchamp’s Secret Masterpiece (Wall Street Journal 8/14/2009)


The following FAQs written by me over the past six-years contain additional info as relates to the Surrealism connections.

Man Ray–Surrealism Connections
Man Ray 1.12
Minotaur 1.13
Misogyny 1.27
Man Ray/G. Hodel 18.1
Exquisite Corpse Book 19.1
Man Ray 27.1
Henry Miller/Man Ray 29.2
Hodel/Man Ray 35.3
Did Man Ray know? 38.1
Henry Miller friend 38.2
GHH on transcripts 44.1
Harvard Fogg museum 45.1
Minotaur/Lovers 58.1
Man Ray/G. Hodel 59.1
Given/ART-Crime book 62.2



  1. Emilie Yount on August 19, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Very interesting. Despite everything known about Man Ray and other artists of the day, I still enjoy their work despite the obvious fascination with young women and general perversion they’ve displayed. I actually took a bunch of old photos and postcards of Man Ray’s and assembled them into a collage. These artists were obviously very sexual people, and, for all we know, sexual predators as well. I would never advocate such practices, esp as a female, but I do find their art very intriguing. Surrealism is definitely my preference in fine art.

  2. Phoebe on August 20, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Clever blog piece with a grin for Dada and MOMA, ha! Good one 🙂
    You did a nice job of juxtaposing the two b&w photos of Etant donnes
    and poor Beth’s body at the crime scene. Chilling.

  3. Steve Hodel on August 20, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Thanks! The YouTube video montage was created by a reader, giving himself the name of Salvador Dalinian who forwarded it to me here a my website. So he gets the creative credit. Not sure if Sal’s music was based on the musical-HELLO DALI! or not?

  4. SalvadorDalinian on August 21, 2009 at 1:21 am

    After reading Detective Hodel’s book and also Exquisite Corpse, I felt compelled to produce a video montage. I now realize it was my way of coping with such horrifying tragedy.
    The music was taken from Totentanz (Dance of Death) by Franz Liszt, probably the greatest piano virtuoso ever. I thought his composition was appropriate on many levels, including in recognition of Dr. George Hodel’s child prodigy background. To me, there is great mystery and tragedy all around: How could such a gifted individual devolve so terribly?

  5. Steve Hodel on August 21, 2009 at 1:52 am

    Thank you for sharing that with us. As you say, a great tragedy.
    In my own personal sadness, I often reflect on these words on my office wall:
    “For thirty years people have been asking me how I reconcile X with Y!
    The truthful answer is that I don’t. Everything about me is a contradiction and
    so is everything about everybody else. We are made out of oppositions; we live
    between two poles. There is a philistine and an aesthete in all of us, and a murderer
    and a saint. You don’t reconcile the poles. You just recognize them.”
    Orson Welles

  6. Phoebe on August 21, 2009 at 11:45 am

    SalvadorDalinian, your musical choice was perfect. Dirge-like and ominous, it really sucked me into the atmosphere.
    The further piano reference with George didn’t even occur to me; thanks for mentioning it. So many layers & levels of connection!
    Steve, we can only imagine your feelings as you continue to explore this, but the strength, grace, and even humor that you employ while doing it is admirable.

  7. Steve Hodel on August 21, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Phoebe- Thanks for the kind words. I have found that when all else fails, humor remains a true and trusted friend.

  8. Karen Conrad on August 22, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Steve- I always thought the Armand Robles info and “stockinged” pic and the killer’s use of the “Juliet Ray” pic as a clear “model” were amongst the strongest bits of evidence you put together. That WAS the killer who took the photo from young Armand and sent the postcard, and the Man Ray photo IS the model for it. This is very direct linkage- the strongest possible w/o DNA or print being involved (Oh, if the original postcard was found squirreled away, with a nice, fat print or smear on it!)
    Thank you for the presentation, also, of the Duchamp/crime scene juxtaposition- this puts it together more clearly even than the layout in “Exquisite Corpse”. And the Copley is chilling- other than the lack of mustache… The title, too, using “Dr. ____)” lends the piece a verisimilitude that does not seem accidental- artists/writers often subtly telegraph the secrets they suspect or know.

  9. Steve Hodel on August 23, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Yes, the Armand Robles “incident” is very interesting. What is generally not known is the fact that the teenager, Armand Robles did not report the incident until after the killer mailed in his photograph after Elizabeth Short’s murder. Only then did he come forward and identify himself and claim he was “knocked down by a well dressed man who took his wallet which contained the photos” (I think there was a lot more to this story than Robles revealed. Perhaps an argument which escalated? A simple “street robbery” makes no sense.)

    • luigi warren on June 27, 2016 at 11:44 pm

      Steve- Did you ever try to track down Robles? Do you know if detectives every showed him pictures of their suspects or brought him in to view a lineup? Taking Armand’s story at face value he would be perhaps the only known witness who could unequivocally ID the killer. I wonder how solid is the evidence that the letters involving Robles were sent by the “real” BDA and not a copycat. Assuming they are the real deal, they seem like a sardonic reference to the conviction of a teenage boy for the Chicago Lipstick murders a few months earlier. BTW, interesting that BDA and Zodiac should both present the “thoughtprint” of sending the press an objet trouve featuring a face with a mask drawn in by hand. That alone should make you wonder if the two killers are one and the same. -LW

      • Steve Hodel on June 28, 2016 at 12:00 am

        LW: As indicated in BDA the Robles reportage was very suspect as to the actual facts. Whatever actually occurred on the assault he didn’t and likely never would have reported, but for the photo of him sent in by GHH. The Zodiac mailing that really links the two crimes in my mind is the “crude drawing of a knife dripping blood” mailed to LA newspapers in 1947 and to San Francisco Chronicle by Zodiac in 1974. See all the additional Crime Signature MOs and linkage at below link. Thirty Avenger/Zodiac Crime MO Signatures.

  10. M.Simmons on September 11, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    I don’t know if it a chilling thoughtprint evidence or not. Yes, I can see that the left hand point toward the city hall, the tall tree. Dr. Hodel office is near the city hall, the tall tree, but I noticed it is appears to be the Dr. Hodel’s pen house in S.F., California. He has a powerful telescope over looking Beth Short’s cementary. It’s eerie.

  11. Emilie on September 19, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    I wanted to comment on this item again and say that I went to the Art Institute this week (in Chicago) to the new Modern Wing where they have many artists on display, including Man Ray and friends. I particulary wanted to see Exquisite Corpse, which was a part of a larger grouping of works on a hidden wall in the only dark section of the exhibit. It really lended to the frightening images in the room from various surrealists which have displayed an obvious hatred and obsession with women. My mother attended with me (who knows nothing of the Avenger book or the E. Corpse book and is not an avid art lover) and she commented on the obvious use of women as objects to be made fun of or even tortured. I was very happy to see these artists but a bit disturbed at the same time. If you are in Chicago, it’s a must-see.

  12. Steve Hodel on September 19, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    In 2004 I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art and saw the Etant donnes on display.

  13. W Bray on October 4, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    OK, I just read the new book, “Most Evil”, and found it very interesting. I thought the linking of the Black Dahlia murder with Zodiac had to be a stretch. Now I believe there are legitimate links, based on info in the book. I had not read Hodel’s first book, so knew nothing of Dr. Hodel.
    Upon examining the Copley work, “it is Midnight, Dr. ____,” I feel compelled to make some comments. The medical tools in the upper right side number five, the number of letters in the name Hodel. The third tool is spaced where there is a “d” in that name. The body of the saw makes a “D” shape. In the interior of that “D” the lines of the grid make an “e” (possibly one “e” on top of another), which corresponds to the next letter in Hodel. The final letter could be a small case “l”, although any straight tool, of which there are many, would do the same.
    The grid upon which the scene is laid could represent city streets or some other grid. I will leave the significance of that fact to your own imagination. It is probably more evocative than literal as a “clue”.
    Would Copley have known Dr. Hodel? If not, I am merely reading coincidence into an artwork. If he did, it becomes very intriguing.

  14. Steve Hodel on October 4, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    The probability that Copley did know my father is very high because of the Man Ray/Hodel connection in Hollywood. I would expect that Copley was indeed at the Franklin House on numerous occasions during that time period. I would refer you to the Nelson/Bayliss book, Exquite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder.
    See My Blog on “A New Letter from Dada & Moma”

  15. jess on November 2, 2011 at 12:06 am

    Could the grid represent the tiles in the master bathroom of the Sowden House?

  16. jess on November 3, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Hello! I left a comment about the William Copley painting, and I can see that you responded–but when I click on the response (or my posted comment) it links back to your original blog post on Etant Donnes, and not to the full response. When I scroll down to the comments, I don’t see either of our entries. In other words, I can’t read your reply!
    thanks, Jess

  17. Steve Hodel on November 3, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Jess: Excellent “out of the box” intuitive thinking. They certainly could represent those original square bathroom tiles in the master bathroom. Steve
    I will also reply by email in case you didn’t get this message.

  18. lizzie on April 30, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    In the Etant Donnes montage. Could the waterfall suggest “falling water” by Frank Lloyd Wright? What about the illuminating gas? Coal Gas? It brings for light…

  19. Suspicious Mind on March 4, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    While art school provided exposure to Dada and the Surrealists, I found them as a group to be overly misogynistic narcissists. Duchamp certainly by far the most original and talented, for me superior to the first and greatest self-aggrandizer, Picasso, with the lesser talents aligned around and below them. I found their stance to be disdainful of both the bourgeois, yet simultaneously of their clientele also. Many, including George Hodel himself, seemed to be incredibly brilliant, but with artistic abilities that never rose to the level of their contrived pretensions. The verbiage assembled around obscure but really sophomoric infatuations with Freud, Oriental mysticism, dream symbols, etc. may have impressed the indulgent art fans of the day, but the sad reality is their lasting influence on the Art world may be reflected in the insanely neurotic, market-driven Altverse of Jeff Koons, Basquiat, and every other pseudo-Post Modernist who is convinced that art is equated with a good spiel and gimmicks. Duchamp at least was clever in conning his audience.

    • Steve Hodel on March 4, 2019 at 7:59 pm

      SM: Have to agree with your asessment of the Dada and Surrealists of that time. Bigtime Misogynists but most talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk. GHH sadly was not only a misogynist and sadist of the highest order, but add to that a MISANTHROPE. And sadly, unlike his fellow “artists” he walked the walk leaving a terrible wake of victims on the shores of LA, Chicago, Manila Bay, and SF Bay area.

  20. Dan Duda on June 16, 2019 at 8:13 pm

    Steve I was looking at many of the pictures today involving this case, and these artworks that you believe could be linked to it. The thing that really jumped out and struck me when I first looked at do Champs “Given: the waterfall The Illuminating Gas,” the bricks that viewers are forced to look through to see anything, look similar to the windows in the house you lived in then, that you now believe is where Elizabeth Short was murdered. The patterns in Duchamp artwork do not follow the exact geometric patterns of the windows in the house. But if this artwork is made as a tribute to this crime, and the artist is trying to throw out mysterious clues that don’t exactly give away what he’s hinting at, wouldn’t he have to change the patterns a little bit or else it would be a dead giveaway, no pun intended? It’s just the photos from inside the house, it really makes a radical impression these black brick windows with patterns you look out to see outside, and this artwork seems to show the same thing, slightly altered

    • Steve Hodel on June 16, 2019 at 8:33 pm

      Dan D: They don’t really resemble the Sowden House which was constructed using large cement blocks like 4’x4′ with decorative patterns and of course the Mayan theme.
      But, I’m convinced there are many “little secret hints” in Duchamp, Man Ray, and Copley’s artworks. We keep finding new links to them and are now well over fifteen “clues”.
      I expect more will turn up over the years. Best, Steve

  21. Dan Duda on June 16, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    So this is really just a continuation of my previous thought: could the heinous murder of Elizabeth Short have been George Hodel’s idea of a surrealist artwork that also pays tribute to two artworks by Man Ray, a theory you’ve already advanced? And I must admit there is something chilling creepy and plausible about the way this Theory fits what we know about George Hodel, at least the psychological theory that Hodel’s later adult life never lived up to the potential he imagined from his childhood signs of brilliance, thus he was desperate to achieve “something great.” And for my money this is the most chillingly plausible explanation of a motive for this killing that has been advanced .
    Then following this Theory, du Champs waterfall The Illuminating Gas is an artwork that pays tribute to George Hotels “artwork,” the Elizabeth Short crime scene. And if my idea about the windows is correct, Duchamp wanted to leave a cryptic from beyond the grave message to those that could decipher it, that he Duchamp knew that George Hodel committed the murder inside the house where Hodel and his family lived in Los Angeles.

    • Steve Hodel on June 16, 2019 at 9:43 pm

      Dan D: Yes, it’s all there in my five books the “Murder as a Fine Art” crime signature and much much more. Suggest you read the books. Here is the best reading order: BDA, Most Evil, BDA II, Most Evil II and BDA III.

  22. Dan Duda on June 16, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    Well I have the first two , I read black Dahlia Avenger and I read most evil. So I think I am going to hang on to my interpretation of du Champs waterfall, which by the way I think is a terrible piece of garbage no matter what he was trying to say, but I think it’s not just an homage to George hodel but it’s an omage to this murder which I’m theorizing some of these artists, with Minds that must be incredibly twisted, saw this murder as the ultimate work of dada surrealist art. And I think you’re advancing that same Theory, we just don’t agree about looking out through these bricks, what it alludes to. But I have to say I admire your tenacity in trying to solve this murder and I wish you more revelations in the future

  23. Dan Duda on June 17, 2019 at 12:15 am

    Steve I tried to send you a bunch of pictures here but I couldn’t get pictures loaded here. So I sent them to you through Facebook Messenger, or sometimes it’s just called messenger. Please look for a thread from me I really think the pictures might mean something in all this. Sorry to bother you so late and take care

Leave a Comment