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JOSEPH CORNELL working with fantasy From Scholastic Art, December 2000/January 2001. What type of figure is central to Joseph Cornell’s Medici Slot Machine? Answer:. A young boy dressed in costume of a renaissance prince or nobleman.

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JOSEPH CORNELL

working with fantasy

From Scholastic Art, December 2000/January 2001


A young boy dressed in costume of a renaissance prince or nobleman.

  • What kinds of found objects has Cornell included in this work?

  • Answer:

He included pieces associated with childhood games, such as jacks & marbles. (bingo game, compass, clock spring)

Medici Slot Machine


  • How does Slot Machine?Dressing Room for Gille reflect Cornell’s fascination with the theater?

  • Answer:

The “sad clown” figure resembles a stock character in the Commedia Dell’ Arte, a 16th Century Italian entertainment.


Cornell’s own life was very restricted and “boxed in.” Because of his family responsibilities, he had few opportunities to travel or socialize. Instead, he placed his dreams into his boxlike assemblages. (Maybe for safe keeping?)

Habitat Group for a Shooting Gallery, 1943


  • How does Cornell’s work?Forgotten Game resemble a dovecote or birdhouse?

  • Answer:

A dovecote is a large bird house designed for keeping domestic pigeons or doves. Forgotten Game is a wooden box with round holes, inside each hole is the image of a bird on a perch.

  • What game, or toy-like element, has Cornell added to Forgotten Game?

  • Answer:

A ball can be made to roll down a ramp inside the box and strike a bell.


The setting suggests an empty cage, or a recently vacated prison cell. The perch is empty, the framed area resembles an open window.

Toward the Blue Peninsula (for Emily Dickinson), 1953


  • In Cornell’s work?Habitat Group for a shooting Gallery, how as Cornell represented senseless cruelty and Violence?

  • Answer:

The four images of tropical birds are numbered as though indicating how many points will be earned for killing them. The shattered glass suggests invasion by a bullet or a thrown rock. Spatters of red suggest blood. Bits of feathers are strewn on the bottom of the box.


The elegant Renaissance palace has been placed in a nighttime setting, surrounded by a glittering frame resembling snow. Lights seem to shine from within the windows, while people and carriages line up in front.


Cornell creates a sense of the isolation and alienation of being alone in a hotel room in an unfamiliar city.


  • In fairy-tale atmosphere?Penny Arcade Portrait how has Cornell depicted the remote nature of a film star who is admired by millions, but remains inaccessible to most?

  • Answer:

Cornell makes Bacall’s portrait the focal point, but places it behind glass. It is visible but untouchable. He uses images most people have access to only through fan magazines.


12. How is Robert Rauschenberg’s fairy-tale atmosphere?Coca-Cola Plan similar to many of Joseph Cornell’s works? How is it different?

Answer:

Rauschenberg uses a box format incorporating found objects. He also includes words, a drawing, and bird-like imagery. His style differs because he placed his bird’s wings on the outside, making the box appear to fly. Cornell’s works were confined to a box.


Samara’s “childhood objects” are the things children are not allowed to play with: knives, razor blades, pins, nails. These objects give his work a menacing, dangerous quality. Cornell’s found objects usually convey a certain warm nostalgia, or wistfulness for childhood days” jacks, marbles, game pieces, and small toys.


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