In 1946, Joseph Cornell created a box construction as an homage to ballerina Tamara Toumanova. An artist who was preoccupied with romantic ballet, Cornell had an appreciation for Toumanova, whom he met backstage at the Metropolitan Opera. This led to Toumanova sending him pieces of her costumes to be added to his shadow boxes in return for gifts of artwork he sent her.
Cornell incorporated feathers from Toumanova’s costumes into the box construction, which is now known as one of his famous “shadow boxes.” It is likely that this obsession with Toumanova pertains to the Swan Lake shadow boxes he made in tribute to her in the 1920s.
Joseph Cornell was not only a master of creating unique and mystical collages and films but also originated the form of sculpture called assemblage where found objects are put together for artistic purposes. His artwork often depicted themes around memory and nostalgia captured through juxtaposing everyday materials in unusual contexts.
Joseph Cornell’s Box Construction honoring Tamara Toumanova reflects his fascination for romantic ballet and admiration for talented performers while capturing his distinctive brand of artistry that merges collages with three-dimensional objects creating magical worlds where imagination takes flight enveloping viewers into another dimension.