This fake diploma is one of many so-called “false documents” that Saul Steinberg made beginning in the 1940s, often as gifts for friends. The sense of absurdity is heightened by the realization that much of the document’s text is not just difficult to parse, it is in fact gibberish. Steinberg’s visual tricks reveal his simultaneous fascination, frustration, and amusement with the complexities of modern bureaucracy, with its endless bouts of paperwork and permissions. Like the rest of Steinberg’s false documents, this example imitates the conventions of real ones, with embellished calligraphy and an array of signatures. In this case, Charles’s signature appears three times and Ray’s appears twice—an abundance that veers towards absurdity. The inclusion of their signatures suggests that this diploma was commissioned by Ray and Charles to be given as a gift or to mark a special occasion.
- Medium:Paper, ink
- Dimensions:20 x 14 in. (50.8 x 35.6 cm)