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Untitled (The Life of King Ludwig II of Bavaria)

c. 1941-1952
Joseph Cornell, American, 1903 - 1972
Throughout his artistic career, Cornell assembled into dossiers a varied range of documents, photographs, and ephemera related to the individuals he admired. This example, devoted to the eccentric King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845–1886), a devoted patron of the composer Richard Wagner, contains, among many other things, a bound book, a folio of photographic reproductions, glass miniature swans, broken glassware and crockery shards with swan images, and two swan bones—all relics of the king’s passion for these legendary birds. “Mad King Ludwig” increasingly withdrew from politics and society after about 1876 to plan and build ever more lavish castles, the most fantastic of which was Neuschwanstein, meaning “new swan stone.” He was declared insane and deposed as king in June 1886; the next day, he drowned himself in Lake Starnberg....

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