Who is the man with the pen on 14th Street?

I’ve been curious about him since the 1990s—this sturdy man clad in a loose-fitting shirt sitting in a chair while holding what looks like a pen to a piece of paper.

His image is carved above the doorway of the five-story walkup residence at 210 West 14th Street.

Who is he? A writer I imagine, or an illustrator, or some other kind of artist.

Whatever he’s doing, he seems reflective and serious, engrossed in his work.

Did an artist or writer live and work here? A search of possibilities turns up something interesting.

From 1942 until his death in 1968, French-born painter, sculptor, and Dada pioneer Marcel Duchamp had a studio in this building on the top floor.

(In fact, “Duchamp” is still written on the buzzer outside the front door, a nice turn Duchamp would probably get a kick out of).

It’s one of many places Duchamp lived in the city after he first arrived in 1915. “It was here that, using found objects from his walks around the neighborhood, Duchamp secretly constructed ‘Etant Donnes,’ when the public had thought he’d given up art,” states art-nerd.com.

Is the man with the pen Duchamp? It seems unlikely, based on what Duchamp actually looked like.

The ground-floor commercial space doesn’t hold any clues. Various tenants leased the space over the years, most notably a Spanish food store called Casa Moneo from 1929 to 1988.

Casa Moneo was one of the last holdouts from when West 14th Street was the center of Manhattan’s “Little Spain” enclave.

The identity of the man and his significance at this address remains a mystery.

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21 Responses to “Who is the man with the pen on 14th Street?”

  1. Aishwarya Says:

    This was an interesting read 🙂

  2. notmsparker Says:

    There is always a possibility that it was salvaged from another building, one that was demolished before this one was constructed or one that stood nearby. It happened in Berlin a lot. In fact, it still does thanks to a depot created by a man who was a huge fan of the late 19thC Berlin architecture and couldn’t bare watching those buildings vanish without a trace. He picked up window frames, doors, oven tiles, whole floors and facade decorations and now sells them for profit to those who want to re-use the objects. Maybe that’s the mystery behind the man with a pen (or chisel)? Salvaged goods? Anyway, greetings from Berlin! Your blog is always a pleasure to read.

  3. Dymoon Says:

    I am glad it is still there, it reflects past > present. the two signs on either side certainly make it stand out..Give it “status”

  4. alaspooryorick Says:

    shopped frequently at Casa Moneo, corn husks, chiles, a wonderful resource for those with passion for genuine Mexican products.

  5. Nancy Cooper Says:

    Nancy Cooper This is the doorway of 210 West 14th Street where I lived for the first 18 years of my life. When I lived there, the building was owned by a rather well-known sculptor, Pompeo Coppini who had an enormous glass roofed studio in the backyard with marble sculptures that were too big to be removed…Later the building was owned by Joseph Torch who had an art supply store on 14th between 6th and 7th Avenues. Later it became the second location of Casa Moneo, a Spanish grocery store. Pompeo Coppini lived from 1870 to 1957. I never saw him — his wife ran the building. She spoke very little English. In the backyard, there was an enormous glass covered sculptor’s studio that had very large marble sculptures done in the classical manner. They were too large to be removed. The stones must have been brought in when there were still alleys I’m guessing. When Moneo bought the building, he had to destroy them to gain use of the space. A funny coincidence: One of Coppini’s well known sculptures is in Monza, Italy of King Umberto who was assassinated in 1900 by Gaetano Bresci. My father was named Bresci after this anarchist.
    There is a photo the same building in 1916. It was a storefront church, Nazarene. There is no artist above the doorway.

    So I think the man over the doorway is Pompeo Coppini not holding a pen but a stylus perhaps. The nose and chin seem very similar to the photo I posted above.

    • david orenge Says:

      Nancy thanks for your postings on ‘Little Spain’ I’ve come across on several sites. I am curious, your father was named after an anarchist who assassinated an Italian king (quite justifiably according to what I read). Do you have a sense of your grandparents and their political beliefs that they would have named your father after Gaetano Bresci? It’s not every day that I hear something interesting like that.

    • Ben Says:

      I find it fascinating that you lived in that building when you were a kid. How come you moved away? Did you stay in the city afterwards? I’m working on a blog about NYC topics, and I would love to hear more.

  6. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! Pompeo Coppini certainly lived and worked there a long time and deserves to be preserved above the entrance.

  7. trilby1895 Says:

    These comments are what I especially love, along with ephemeral’s original articles, about this site; always more and more fascinating information about history and art. Thank you SO MUCH, one and all!!!

  8. Ty Says:

    As a children we were taken to La Bilbaina near there because so many other places would not tolerate children. La Bilbaina seemed to welcome us. Riazor with Spanish expats and peanuts holds for Spain and Cuba close on 16th Street today. I have so many warm memories there.

  9. Nancy Cooper Says:

    I tried to post a couple of photos of 210 West 14th Street and a picture of Coppini but I couldn’t. If you tell me how, I will send them.

    Another recognized artist lived there — Alfred Levitt. The ground floor was a bar called McIntyre’s. It was a couple of steps below street level. Up one flight behind the door was Eunice and John’s Beauty parlor which smelled terrible when someone was getting a permanent. The mailboxes and locked door were on that level. One flight up was the Alfred Levitt’s apartment where he lived with his wife Gertrude and a boarder, Miss Sutton. We lived on the next floor, the third floor. The sky lit studios were on the top floor which is where Duchamp and other artists lived.

    I also should mention that the building had a serious fire sometime in the 80’s I think. At that time, they removed the skylights that were on the top floor where Duchamp and other artists had their studios.

    • Ronald Watkins Says:

      Hi Nancy, My name is Ronald Watkins, Im the curator of the Coppini Academy of Fame Arts in San Antonio. I would be very interested in any photos you may have of Coppini and his old building. You are right, that is Coppini above the door. He built his own tomb here in San Antonio with him and his wife on it. He always wanted to make sure he was remembered.

  10. Benjamin Feldman Says:

    Utterly amazing that Duchamp lived there and his buzzer title lives on ! Great find !

  11. Steven Otero Says:

    Margaret Sutton moved to NYC where she met Levitt and his wife, Gertrude. The three lived together from 1939 until Gertrude Levitt died in 1983. Alfred Levitt and Sutton remained together there until Sutton’s death in1990.

  12. Margaret Harden Says:

    at first glance, i thought it looked more like a stylus than a pen…great history reporting, tho’…love this website! thanks! (thanks also to my daughter & son-in-law for forwarding…

  13. Steven Otero Says:

    Artist Alfred Levitt Lived for many years on the second floor of 210 West 14 St. Marcel Duchamp lived above him. ” In the morning he’d say: “Good evening, Alfred.” Conversely, when I met him walking up in the evening, he said : “Good morning, Alfred.” That’s how clever he was, and contrary.

  14. Mark A Newman Says:

    It always amazes me how EVERY building in NYC, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is always so full of life and history!! LOVE this site and the comments

  15. Bob Says:

    Unfortunately, Pompeo Coppini apparently produced several Confederate statues in Texas, including


    That said, it is worth noting, “[…] George Littlefield, a Confederate officer, UT regent and benefactor who nearly 100 years ago commissioned the various statues. The sculptor, Pompeo Coppini, expressed prescient misgivings, writing, ‘As time goes by, they will look to the Civil War as a blot on the pages of American history, and the Littlefield Memorial will be resented as keeping up the hatred between the Northern and Southern states.’ […]”


  16. David H Lippman Says:

    That’s between 8th and 9th Avenues, if memory serves…my old neighborhood.

  17. Ron Watkins Says:

    The man is not holding a pen, he is holding a sculpture tool. That man is Pompeo Coppini. He use to own that building.

  18. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Yes, mystery solved! This is one of my favorite posts thanks to all the insightful comments.

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