Untitled (for Mylène Demongeot) is a dynamic and thought-provoking sculpture from the 1950's which incorporates a parrot, one of Cornell's favorite subjects. Generally referred to as Aviaries, Cornell began making works with birds as the main subject in 1941. The cage-like form of the box, the perch, the bird images in both wood cut-out and its bent wire profile at the left all point to it being a home of a bird, albeit one with a cosmopolitan flair.
Cornell's imaginary world generally has a European flavor. The outside of the box is covered in what appears to be pages from a German textbook from the L'Académie de Saint-Pétersbourg. Scattered throughout the inside of the box are small scraps of Italian references-maps of Siena and Tivoli, as well as an advertisement of a Florentine maker of "Straw-And Filthats Specialties for Ladies and Children".
Myléne Demongeot, to whom the sculpture was dedicated, was a young French actress just starting her film career--the sultry blonde had starred in such films as Its a Wonderful World (1956), and The Crucible (1956). Cornell was fascinated with movie stars and ballerinas and Untitled (for Mylène Demongeot) is one of the many works made in homage to them.
The drawer at the bottom of the box contains a number of secret treasures. Rather than provide an answer to the visual riddles of Untitled (for Mylène Demongeot), its contents compound them. Continuing its Italian theme, it contains small paper fragments, which are inside a 3 x 4¼ inch envelope addressed to a Mr. "Albiani" in Pietrasanta, postmarked 1883. The fragments relate to maps--one is a section from a map of Gibraltar, while the other snippet is a crumpled gray strip of paper without text with an overall topographic quality. Adding to the mystery is a cutout printed image of a man's shoe, which rests freely inside the drawer.
Cornell rarely travelled. Nonetheless, Cornell's boxes in many ways express a longing for faraway places that he would never see. His "travels" were imaginary and his artworks are a kind of visual guidebooks/diaries, "souvenirs de voyage". Untitled (for Mylène Demongeot)'s elegantly distressed interior and cryptic collage elements are all seamless integrated into a work that courts the mystery and intrigue for which he is best known.
Eugène Atget, Taxidermist's Shop, 1926-27