Cockatoo: Keepsake Parakeet

Copied Joseph Cornell, Cockatoo: Keepsake Parakeet, 1949-1953, wooden cutout, paper, spring, and found objects in a glass-fronted wood box, 20 14125 in. (51.430.512.7 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Donald Windham, 2003.69

Artwork Details

Cockatoo: Keepsake Parakeet
Not on view
20 14125 in. (51.430.512.7 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Donald Windham
Mediums Description
wooden cutout, paper, spring, and found objects in a glass-fronted wood box
  • Animal — bird — parrot
  • Object — other — birdhouse
Object Number

Artwork Description

In Cockatoo: Keepsake Parakeet, a bird is perched in its white-walled cage; a coiled spring from a watch is its lone companion. Mementos fill the drawer beneath the cage: a pink plastic charm of an Indian drawing a bow, a paper candy box, French music sheets, and other ephemera. Joseph Cornell gave this box to Donald Windham as a token of thanks for writing the forward in his 1949 exhibition catalogue The Aviaries. The show debuted Cornell's new bird themed boxes, which were inspired by looking into the windows of a pet store.

Cornell's extensive collection of contemporary periodicals and antique books served as source material for his artwork. The lesser lemon-crested cockatoo in the shadow box is from the nineteenth-century book Parrots in Captivity by W. T. Greene. Cornell had several copies of the book from which he cut out images of birds to glue to wooden supports, some of which were left waiting for future, unbuilt boxes. Although many feature the same bird, no two works are alike.