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Joseph Cornell

Cygne Crépusculaire (Twilight Swan), 1949

Backing board with attached stained wood frame and glass front, velvet (on sides), reproduced engraving, graphite, imitation gemstone, and mirror

<p>This box is closely related to the earlier, untitled box known as <a href=""><em>For Tamara Toumanova</em></a> and is specifically a tribute to the prima ballerina‘s performance in an outdoor product ion of <em>Swan Lake</em>, which Cornell attended. Its spare elegance, the contrast of the simple “rustic” frame with the picturesque intricacy of the wooded landscape, and the various light effect s created by the blue glass and the mirror seem to recreate the experience of open-air ballet. The swan itself fills the foreground and appears at home in its natural setting, but is simultaneously distanced from it by the blue moonlight, its identity with the ballerina indicated only by a brilliant, clear gemstone (a second one is now lost). Cornell has here restricted his incorporation of the delicate and decorative materials associated with the ballerina‘s presence, which elsewhere include feathers and sequins, to this artificial diamond, a conceit in keeping with the paradoxical nature of the event.</p> <p>— Entry, Dawn Ades, <em>Surrealist Art: The Lindy and Edwin Bergman Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago</em>, 1997, p.57.</p>