Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 25 Evans Way, Boston, MA 02115, Stati Uniti
Mount Auburn Cemetery, 580 Mt Auburn St, Cambridge, MA 02138, Stati Uniti
Isabella Stewart Gardner (April 14, 1840 – July 17, 1924) was a leading American art collector, philanthropist, and patron of the arts. She founded the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
Gardner possessed an energetic intellectual curiosity and a love of travel. She was a friend of noted artists and writers of the day, including John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler, Dennis Miller Bunker, Anders Zorn, Henry James, Okakura Kakuzo and Francis Marion Crawford.
Gardner created much fodder for the gossip columns of the day with her reputation for stylish tastes and unconventional behavior. The Boston society pages called her by many names, including "Belle," "Donna Isabella," "Isabella of Boston," and "Mrs. Jack". Her surprising appearance at a 1912 concert (at what was then a very formal Boston Symphony Orchestra) wearing a white headband emblazoned with "Oh, you Red Sox" was reported at the time to have "almost caused a panic", and remains still in Boston one of the most talked about of her eccentricities.
Nearly 70 works of art in her collection were acquired with the help of dealer Bernard Berenson. Among the collectors with whom she competed was Edward Perry Warren, who supplied a number of works to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Gardner collection includes work by some of Europe's most important artists, such as Botticelli's Madonna and Child with an Angel, Titian's Europa, and Raphael's The Colonna Altarpiece, and Diego Velázquez. She purchased some of her collection on her own, but often asked for male colleagues, such as her business partner, to purchase on her behalf as it was uncommon for women to participate in art collecting.
By 1896, Isabella and Jack Gardner recognized that their house on Beacon Street in Boston’s Back Bay, although enlarged once, was not sufficient to house their growing collection of art, including works by Botticelli, Vermeer, and Rembrandt.
After Jack's sudden death in 1898, Isabella realized their shared dream of building a museum for their treasures. She purchased land for the museum in the marshy Fenway area of Boston, and hired architect Willard T. Sears to build a museum modeled on the Renaissance palaces of Venice. Gardner was deeply involved in every aspect of the design, though, leading Sears to quip that he was merely the structural engineer making Gardner's design possible.
The building completely surrounds a glass-covered garden courtyard, the first of its kind in America. Gardner intended the second and third floors to be galleries. A large music room originally spanned the first and second floors on one side of the building, but Gardner later split the room to make space to display a large John Singer Sargent painting called El Jaleo on the first floor and tapestries on the second floor.
After construction of the museum was completed, Gardner spent a year carefully installing her collection according to her personal aesthetic. The eclectic gallery installations, paintings, sculpture, textiles, and furniture from different periods and cultures combine to create a rich, complex and unique narrative. In the Titian Room, Titian's masterpiece The Rape of Europa (1561–1562) hangs above a piece of pale green silk, which had been cut from one of Isabella Stewart Gardner's gowns designed by Charles Frederick Worth. Throughout the collection, similar stories, intimate portrayals, and discoveries abound.
The museum privately opened on January 1, 1903 with a grand opening celebration featuring a performance by members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a menu that included champagne and doughnuts. It opened to the public months later with a variety of paintings, drawings, furniture and other objects dating from ancient Egypt to Matisse. The museum is still arranged with a variety of textiles, furniture, and paintings floor to ceiling.
Gardner lived on the fourth floor when in residence at the museum. After her death, the fourth floor served for many years as residence for the museum's director; more recently it has been converted for use as museum offices.
In 1919, Isabella Stewart Gardner suffered the first of a series of strokes and died five years later, on July 17, 1924, at the age of 84. She is buried in the Gardner family tomb at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, between her husband and her son.
Her will created an endowment of $1 million and outlined stipulations for the support of the museum, including that the permanent collection not be significantly altered. In keeping with her philanthropic nature, her will also left sizable bequests to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Industrial School for Crippled and Deformed Children, Animal Rescue League of Boston, and Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. A devout Anglo-Catholic, she requested in her will that the Cowley Fathers celebrate an annual Memorial Requiem Mass for the repose of her soul in the museum chapel. This duty is now performed each year on her birthday and alternates between the Society of St. John the Evangelist and the Church of the Advent.
The site of her former home (demolished in 1904) is a stop on the Boston Women's Heritage Trail.
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