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Untitled (For Trista)

A work made of box construction.
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York

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  • A work made of box construction.


c. 1969


Joseph Cornell
American, 1903–1972

About this artwork

This box may have been the last one Cornell ever made. He dedicated it to Trista Stern (born 1960), eldest daughter of the ballerina Allegra Kent and the photographer Bert Stern. Cornell met Kent in 1956, and they were particularly close in 1969. As Kent recalled, “My greatest rapport with Joseph came on a visit August 13, 1969. I was very depressed … I went out to see Joseph and we lost ourselves talking about music, nature and shells” (Allegra Kent, “Joseph Cornell: A Reminiscence,” in New York, Castelli, Feigen, Corcoran, Joseph Cornell Portfolio, 1976, exh. cat., n. pag.).

Like so many of Cornell‘s boxes, this is a game, which can only be fully revealed when it is manipulated. The map is a comparative chart of the world’s rivers, as its title informs us. It is, in other words, an imaginary map, and the blank area at its heart, resembling a map of the Arctic or Antarctic, is a purely notional “source” point. At its center is an orienting compass, the only part of the map visible when the back panel is closed. Although topographical charts appear relatively infrequently in Cornell’s work, compared with maps of the heavens ancient or modern, the ingenious character of this one must have appealed to him.

Three objects move freely on top of the plywood panel: a metal globe, a hollow blue plastic cube, and a red wooden bead. Each can be caught in the hole in the panel by tilting the box, which may well have been conceived to work horizontally, as well as vertically, based on the orientation of the inscriptions on the back (see a href="">Untitled (Black Hunter). Rather than the navigation boxes, to which it has a superficial resemblance, this box strongly recalls the educational, “philosophical” toy so popular with the Victorians: a lesson about the world and its dimensions.

— Entry, Dawn Ades, Surrealist Art: The Lindy and Edwin Bergman Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, 1997, p. 96-97.

On View

Modern Art, Gallery 397


Joseph Cornell


Untitled (For Trista)


United States




Box construction


Signed and inscribed on back: Joseph Cornell / x (sideways, lower left); for Trista / x (upper left); from Joseph x (lower right)


18 × 13 3/8 × 4 1/2 in. 3 objects, elements, packed separately in bo×

Credit Line

Lindy and Edwin Bergman Joseph Cornell Collection

Reference Number



© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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