New York: Salamander Editions, . 4to (140 x 107 mm; 5½ x 4¼ in.). 10 pages. Engraved vignette, small color image of the Manhattan skyline mounted on last page; original blue tissue preserved. Stapled in original printed wrappers. A virtually untouched example in a custom folding case. Provenance: Sylvia Pedlar (1900-1972), American fashion designer. Item #402918
An immaculate copy of Cornell’s scarce artist’s book, printed in an edition of 100 copies, this with an original image Cornell mounted in personalized copies, and accompanied by a letter presenting the pamphlet to American fashion designer Sylvia Pedlar (1902-1982).
JOSEPH CORNELL. Typed letter signed (“Joseph Cornell”) to Sylvia Pedlar, 3708 Utopia Parkway, Flushing, NY, 27 May 1956. One page, 4to, on Valley Onion Skin.
Reading: “Long before the egan gallery suspended operation I have thought back to the pleasant occasion of meeting you there with Mr. [Bradley Walker] Tomlin. It is hard to take, – the news of his passing. Enclosed something more nostalgic than the weather prophet [Cornell’s 1954 assemblage], a little private printing of an aspect of ‘exploration’ which I hope to have more news of one of these days.” Cornell had his first show at the Charles Egan Gallery in 1949.
By 1956, when Cornell presented this book, Sylvia Pedlar was a leading designer of lingerie, having studied at Cooper Union and the Art, Students League. She launched her business, Iris Lingerie, in 1929. Though she hated the term, she is credited with creating the super short “baby doll” nighties – a clever response to the fabric shortage during the Second World War. She is also known for adapting the Roman toga to the American nightgown. Cornell refers to the New York Abstract Expressionist Bradley Walker Tomlin, who had died in May 1953 having had a heart attack after visiting Jackson Pollock in Long Island.
Maria, an appropriated text translated by Cornell from Elise Polko’s original prose-poem, reflects Cornell’s obsession with opera, and with the Spanish mezzo-soprano Maria Malibran in particular. A cache of the pamphlets was found in Cornell’s estate after his death, all lacking the blue tissue guard and the mounted image at end, both of which are present here. This early example is among those Cornell specially personalized for notable friends. Lynda Roscoe Hartigan proposes that Cornell turned to other creative activities such as this book in the 1950s due to his ambivalent attitude towards his constructions. He was periodically expanding his Portrait of Ondine, GC44 from 1951 on, filling it with printed matter, notes, and excerpts in the manner of Duchamp’s Valises. He published Maria and Bel Canto Pet (1955) at his own expense, in the manner of the French feuilletons (see Hartigan, “Joseph Cornell: A Biography” in Joseph Cornell, ed. Kynaston McShine, New York: MoMA, 1980, pp. 108-109). .