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Joseph Cornell

The Signs and Symbols of Joseph Cornell

Samantha Tubridy

on 21 February 2018

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Transcript of Joseph Cornell

The Hotel Eden - Joseph Cornell, 1945
sign: /sīn/
Noun: An object, quality, or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else.

Verb: Write one's name on (a letter, card, or similar item) to identify oneself as the writer or sender: "the card was signed by the whole class".

Synonyms: mark - token - symbol - indication - symptom - omen

sym·bol: /simbl/
Noun:A thing that represents or stands for something else, esp. a material object representing something abstract.

A mark or character used as a conventional representation of an object, function, or process, e.g., the letter or letters standing for a chemical element or a character in musical notation.

Synonyms: sign - emblem - token - mark - badge - ensign - character
Sign and Symbol: Joseph Cornell
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Taglioni's Jewel Casket:

The art form that Cornell made his own was the box, its contents carefully arranged to evoke a mood or narrative. In Taglioni's Jewel Casket, small glass cubes lie in a wood box. Beneath them, and under blue glass, necklaces, sand, crystal, and rhinestones rest on a mirrored surface. This romantic scene of ice and jewels relates to an event in the life of the legendary nineteenth-century ballerina Marie Taglioni.

A label in the box's lid tells the story: "On a moonlight night in the winter of 1835 the carriage of Marie TAGLIONI was halted by a Russian highwayman, and that enchanting creature commanded to dance for this audience of one upon a panther's skin spread over the snow beneath the stars. From this actuality arose the legend that to keep alive the memory of this adventure so precious to her, TAGLIONI formed the habit of placing a piece of artificial ice in her jewel casket or dressing table where, melting among the sparkling stones, there was evoked a hint of the atmosphere of the starlit heavens over the ice-covered landscape."

Exerpt from:The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 177
Taglioni's Jewel Casket - Joseph Cornell, 1940
as·sem·blage: /semblij/

Noun: A collection or gathering of things or people.
A machine or object made of pieces fitted together: "some vast assemblage of gears and cogs".

Synonyms: Assembly - gathering - meeting - collection - rally

ob·jet trou·vé/ôbZHā troovā/

Noun: An object found or picked up at random and considered aesthetically pleasing.

Untitled (Bébé Marie) - Joseph Cornell, early 1940's
Untitled (Pharmacy) - Joseph Cornell, 1942
In his miniature apothecary Cornell placed medicine for the soul and imagination: colored sand, a speckled shell, maps and feathers.
The crank on the right exterior of the construction turns a broken music box, hidden in the lower-right corner of the sculpture. The music box in turn is attached by a thin rod to the cylinder above it, which is intended to revolve while music plays. The cylinder is covered with decorations, some of which suggest the paraphernalia and practices of the fortune-teller. Small stars on the cylinder and a map of the constellation of Ursa Minor, in the lower-left corner of the box, also allude to astrology and divination. The parrot itself is a common attribute of the itinerant fortune-teller.
Fortune Telling Parrot (Parrot Music Box) - Joseph Cornell, 1937–38
List of Online Resources:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: http://www.metmuseum.org/

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York: http://www.moma.org/

The Guggenheim Museum: http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york

Smithsonian American Art Museum: http://americanart.si.edu/

Untitled (Penny Arcade Portrait of Lauren Bacall) - Joseph Cornell, 1945-46
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