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Joseph Cornell papers, 1804-1986, bulk 1939-1972

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4.2: Portfolios , 1831-1957

Subseries is comprised of portfolios devoted to two of Cornell's on-going "explorations," "Ondine (Cerrito)" and "Romantic Ballet." Portfolios consist of oversized and document-sized material, including notes, book and typed excerpts, stats, clippings, lithograph portraits, prints, sheet music, writings, and other printed material. Portfolio titles are drawn from the inscriptions on the outside of each portfolio case. Cornell more than likely compiled this material in much the same way as that in his other files, though he ended up storing and maintaining it separately due perhaps to the size of certain items.
The "Ondine (Cerrito)" Portfolio represents some of the material that Cornell created and accumulated in the course of working on Portrait of Ondine, his "exploration" (or "unauthorized biography") of Fanny Cerrito and her famous role in the ballet, Ondine. Portfolio includes material, such as exhibition text and notes, relating to the exhibitions of versions of Portrait of Ondine at the Museum of Modern Art in 1946 and at the Wittenborn Bookstore in 1956 ( See also Subseries 4.3); and notes indicating Cornell's desire and/or intention to present this "exploration" in another format. Portfolio also includes material on Marie Taglioni, and other material (such as a typed manuscript of Cornell's essay on Hedy Lamarr for View) that may or may not correspond to the same "exploration."
The "Romantic Ballet" Portfolio consists of material on ballet dancers, Marie Taglioni and Tamara Toumanova, and opera singers, Maria Malibran, Pauline Viardot-Garcia, and Giuditta Pasta. It is unclear whether all the material relates directly to the Romantic Ballet "exploration," but it seems possible that Cornell was able to find linkages between Romantic and contemporary ballerinas, as well as between ballerinas and opera singers. The name of 'Gautier' inscribed on the portfolio suggests that the figure of Theophile Gautier may have been a thread linking this broad exploration. Portfolio includes material relating to a proposed "Taglioni-Poe project," which Cornell at one point intended to publish in the avant-garde periodical, Possibilities ( See also the Motherwell dossier for correspondence mentioning the project); a version of his Toumanova Ballet Scrapbook and swan prints that seem to relate to the Swan Lake shadow boxes he made in tribute to her; and writings on Viardot-Garcia that trace a "Turgenev-St. Saens thread" and establish a connection between the opera singer and his box, Parrot for Juan Gris.
Dossiers and Subject Source Files include files relating to some of the same people and topics, as well as to some of the same, or similar, projects.
For preservation purposes, material has been removed from the original portfolio cases, which have been preserved as well. Portfolios are arranged alphabetically according to title.
Description Container
"Ondine (Cerrito)" Portfolio, 1883, 1946-1956, undated
(2 folders, 1 item)
25 (sol)
1-2
"Romantic Ballet" Portfolio, 1831-1957, undated
(2 folders)
25 (sol)
3-4
"Romantic Ballet" Portfolio, 1831-1957, undated
(6 folders, 1 item)
26 (sol)
1-6

Make a Request

  • To request an appointment to view materials, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reading Room" button. Please note, you will receive the full box.
  • To request reproductions, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reproduction" button.