Thursday, November 6, 2008

Taglioni's Jewell Casket, 1940

Cornell created this box to memorialize the 19th-century ballerina, Marie Taglioni. Under the blue glass tray of glass ice cubes is a mirrored level containing necklaces, sand, crystal, and rhinestones. The words on the inside of the lid tell one of the legends surrounding the dancer: On a moonlit night in the winter of 1835, a Russian highwayman stopped Taglioni's carriage and ordered her to dance for him "upon a panther's skin spread over the snow beneath the stars." In memory of this occasion, Taglioni "formed the habit of placing a piece of artificial ice in her jewel casket." Cornell's work is often trying to preserve something - an event, a performance, a person - that cannot be preserved. Just as real ice melts, memories fade into eternity.

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