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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.




Joseph Cornell
American, 1903–1972

About this artwork

Cornell crated complex spatial and visual effects in Pavilion by using fragments of mirrors in various positions within the construction. These allow for different views of the interior as the spectator changes position. This is particularly true of the mirror on the bottom of the wood shelf a long the top of the right interior wall, which gives a view of the interior of the box as if seen from above. These mirror fragments also vary greatly in shape. As noted in the above media description, there are four fragments of mirror on the rear interior wall: the tips of the two long, curved fragments, which look like sickle moons, almost touch; a third piece, in the lower left corner, is roughly triangular; and the fourth fragment is straight.

The title, Pavilion, evokes the in-between space of a tent or garden structure from which the heavens can be observed. The ambiguity between interior and exterior is often part of the mysterious power of Cornell‘s boxes; here, the moon-shaped mirror fragments create a circular opening through which the constellations are seen, but the “pavilion” could also be the “tent” of the sky itself.

— Entry, Dawn Ades, Surrealist Art: The Lindy and Edwin Bergman Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, 1997, p.68-69.


On View, Gallery 397


Modern Art


Joseph Cornell




United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Box construction


Titled, signed, and dated on back, on paper label: “Pavillion” [sic] / joseph cornell / 1953. (typed) / Joseph Cornell (in the artist’s hand)


48 × 30.2 × 16.6 cm (18 7/8 × 11 7/8 × 6 1/2 in.)

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

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