Clowns, Elephants, and Ballerinas…

Dance Index, June 1946, Vol. 5, No. 6 (cover arranged from the painting Le Cirque by Seurat, issue designed by, and most of the visual material from the collection of, Joseph Cornell)

The cover of the first number of Dance Index was designed by Joseph Cornell and he has been a regular contributor for the last four and a half years. This issue, dedicated to those persistent dancers, the Clown, the Elephant and the Ballerina (or Equestrienne), is all the work of his hands, eyes and imagination. Mr. Cornell has a very special gift; the energy for collection, juxtaposition and contrast. For him the inconsequential past is neither frivolous or dead. The horse spectacles of Astley’s Amphitheater, the Funambules of Deburua’s boulevards are as alive, human and significant to him as Coney Island or the Ballet Russe, maybe even more so. Many amateurs love the vaguely preposterous past, but few pursue it with the affectionate surgery and relentless skill of Joseph Cornell. He is brother to the scientist who recreated a whole pre-historic age from the glimpse of a dinosaur’s tooth. From a fragment of a program, a set of lithographs, a couple of footnotes and a reference in a letter, Mr. Cornell evokes splendid evenings completely lost. Only now do we find they are merely sleeping, waiting for him to surprise them back into life…”
Lincoln Kirstein

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