Sunday, February 3, 2013

Meet Isabella

Isabella Stewart Gardner by Anders Zorn, 1894

Just got back from five days
of college visits on the east coast.

While we were in Boston
we were able to do a little 

Three different Bostonians
told us one of their
favorite spots
in their city 
was the
 The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 

It is truly unbelievable.
From the minute you 
walk through the door 
 you see why it
is such a magical place
that makes an impact on its visitors.  

(Note: we were not permitted to take any photos
inside the museum, so these have all been gathered from 
Pinterest and Google images.) I was sick that I could not
take any pictures of my daughter standing in this amazing space,
but I am a rule-follower so I obeyed the instructions!)

Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840 - 1924)

This is Isabella.

She was born in New York
in 1840 as Isabella Stewart
and married a Boston man named
John Lowell Gardner Jr. in 1860.
The two of them traveled the world
and began collecting art and artifacts.

When Isabella's father died in 1891,
leaving her a large fortune, her "collecting"
took on a new purpose and acquisitions amassed. 
She had always dreamed of building a museum
to contain her collections, 
and when her husband died unexpectedly 
of a stroke in 1898, these plans 
 became a reality. 

She found land to buy
in the undeveloped Fenway section of Boston,
and in 1899 the construction of this building began.
Two years later, Isabella moved into the new structure
with eight balconies looking down onto a Roman
mosaic courtyard surrounded by Roman 
statues with tropical gardens and fountains.

The indoor courtyard has a glass dome roof four stories
above to allow natural lighting for the gardens below.

In 1903, 
she opened her museum
(with private living quarters on the fourth floor)
and named it 
Fenway Court.

18th century Venetian chair

Titian's "Europa" dated 1561

This palace in the city,
is similar in style and architecture to a
museum in Milan, the Poldi Pezzoli Museum 
that she had visited as a young girl. 

Poldi Pezzoli Musuem, Milan

Isabella's spectacular collection of over
2,500 pieces ranges from ancient Chinese
bronzes, to Titian's Europa, and the first Matisse
acquired by an American museum. 

17th century Italian leather wall covering panels

The walls within are covered with paintings 
from Rembrandt, Manet, Degas, Velasquez,
 Whistler, Van Dyck, Rubens, Bellini,
and Sargent to name a few. 

There are rooms with floor to ceiling tapestries, 
filled with relics of cathedrals and castles 
from around the world. Ancient carved figures, 
furnishings, and religious paintings
and pieces dating from the 1300's. 
Too much to list.

You just need to go and visit --  it is a gift to behold.

There was 
disappointing moment for me.

My most favorite non-American artist
is Jan Vermeer (1632 - 1675). 

When I realized Isabella had a Vermeer - 
The Concert, c. 1658 shown above, 
I was ecstatic! 

I looked and looked and could
not find it anywhere.

It was stolen.

It seems that in 1990,
two thieves dressed as Boston policemen
stole thirteen works of art to include this Vermeer,
and two of her Rembrandt paintings. 

They have never been found.


Empty frames hang where the stolen paintings
were once displayed.
Stolen Rembrandt: "Storm on the Sea of Galilee"

In any event,
I highly recommend that you visit
this breath-taking collection and gardens.

John Singer Sargent painted Isabella several times. This is just one version.
A second one shown below two years before she passed away.

 Sargent's Isabella in 1922

For museum information link here

The next time you are in Boston,
put it at the top of your list.
It's right near the Museum of Fine Arts
and Fenway Park. 

Seeing a collection
of this magnitude in a castle-like setting
is so much more interesting.
I think you will agree!

~ A 


Myra said...

My daughter-in-law took me to the museum several years ago. Truly a must see for anyone who appreciates art and architecture.

Designs By Pinky said...

It sounds amazing! I would love to see it, hoe I get to Boston one day. I'll put this on my "buscket list"!! XO, Pinky

Leslie said...

What an unfortunate incident.. such gorgeous work by Jan Vermeer. Don't you love the stance and "look" of women from this time era? Without a smile she is still lovely.

Thanks for sharing and I hope you visit to the colleges in the area was productive. My kids are almost done!


Terri ~the dressed up cottage said...

It all looks fabulous. I think I could be happy to spend a few hours getting lost.
Thanks for sharing the story.

Amye Gumbinner said...

Thank you for this wonderful memory! I was there before the robberies and I am sorry you were not able to see those works. I was so taken with her extraordinary collection, her magnificent home and her offbeat persona; walking her pet tiger down the street.

Divine Theatre said...

Can you imagine her life? Wowee!
I have a copy of Rembrandt's painting. It is one of my favorites. We have it in the bedroom to remind us He is in charge...when we wake up and when we lay down to sleep.



Sarah said...

Alison, I visited this museum several years ago. It's such a beautiful setting. How fortunate for us that Isabella Gardner had the passion to share her art collection and home with the public. Thanks for this excellent post! ~ Sarah

Salmagundi said...

I happened to be in Munich, Germany when there was a Vermeer exhibit - it was wonderful. So sad about the Boston's Vermeer. But the Gardner Museum/castle looks like a wonderful place to visit -- someday for me maybe!!

MarmePurl said...

Absolutely Fascinating! As a big lover of museums, I am quite happy you shared this excursion with us.
I'm drooling over here.

PURA VIDA said...

What a delightful post! I loved her first portrait, I believe she really owned her own life and so made history. Your trip was really fascinating to read. It's like the frames are just waiting for the paintings to be returned, which I'm guessing will happen some day.

Sherry @ No Minimalist Here said...

Alison, The beautiful exterior reminds me of Venice. I would love to visit here one day.
xx, Sherry

jana said...

Thanks for taking us here! In have always wanted to go since reading about a Maxfield Parrish painting there. About the theft - I wonder if that wasn't taken, too?

andrea@townandprairie said...

Looks like Isabella wore the pants, man! She was in CHARGE! That art collection is amazing, and, although I much prefer the John-Singer Sargeant (because one of my teachers used to compare my artwork to sweetly lovely), those thieves will get what's comin' to them some day. How dare they swipe those antique paintings! Black market fools...hopefully they will get caught and her collection will be reunited. Thanks for sharing these beautiful pieces. I'm still an artist at heart!

Shirley@Housepitality Designs said...

Thanks for the tour Alison...that is definitely a place that I would love to visit...

michele said...

what an incredible story! i love sargent--so that was a sweet surprise at the end of your post. hope your college visits were fruitful!


Ricki Jill Treleaven said...

Alison, I recently read a wonderful book entitled The Art Forger, and it's about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist. Although fiction, there's so much history in it!

I know you enjoyed your college tour since you visited the museum. Shanley was accepted to Emerson, but I'm happy she stayed closer to home. :D

Thanks for a lovely post, and John Singer Sargent is my favorite artist.


Alison @ The Polohouse said...

Thanks so much for all the wonderful comments! I wish I could respond to some of you, but you have written from a no-reply email address.

Thank you for weighing in on the museum. It IS a great place!


Yvonne @ StoneGable said...

This is my favorite museum! It is just the most unusual story, and place! Thanks for bringing back so many wonderful memories!

La Dolfina said...

I was the same way you were when I visited it several years ago!!!
Recently I visited the Getty Villa which was the closest thing to it.
Thanks for the memories!!!
I am new to your blog and just love it!!!!!