Isabella Gardner Museum: A trip to Venice in Boston

If I had to choose a favorite among the museums in Boston, I’d choose the The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, modeled after a Venetian palazzo. Every corner of the museum tells a story or reveals a treasure. The experience is unique–allowing you to see the artistic vision of a fascinating woman who was ahead of her time. A woman, whose life you can imagine as you walk around her house, and as you look at the eclectic art she collected from across the world.

By visiting the museum, you take a mini trip to Venice and soak in the beauty at every turn. I could spend hours in the courtyard, admiring the seasonal exotic plants and flowers. There are many artifacts that Gardner must have purchased in different parts of Europe. As I linger in the courtyard, I try to imagine Gardner and her friends at this setting, talking about art, soaking in the ambience.

The Woman

Isabella Gardner museum has preserved the owner’s bohemian lifestyle and love of luxurious things. What is unique and memorable is the manner in which she personally arranged the thousands of art pieces, books, sculptures and textiles. She was one of a kind, a strong woman –she specified in her endowment that nothing should be changed. Yes, she was a privileged Bostonian, but she travelled the world, was independent, and cultivated friendships with artists–something that was considered scandalous at the time. Her whimsical side comes out in how she has placed certain items including the bird in the window. Gardner set a world record for her purchase of Titian’s Rape of Europa, outbidding representatives from Paris and London.

The image slideshow gives a glimpse into the woman and the many whimsical touches to be found here.

The Rooms, The Colors and the Art

Each room whether it is the Italian Room, the Raphael Room, the Tapestry Room or the Dutch Room has a theme or a color. It takes the visitor on a journey through stories about the art, about how Gardner acquired it and how she placed it for the visitor to enjoy. 

Here’s a walk through of the yellow room.

The Heist

In 1990, the largest art robbery in the world left the museum without 13 works in its permanent collection, including pieces by Degas, Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Manet. A $10 million reward still stands for information on the stolen works adding mystery to this beautiful museum.

Isabella Stuart Gardner had created a marvelous experience for visitors by throwing open the doors to her house when she was alive. There is a portrait of a young Rembrandt on the opposite side of an empty frame that held his only seascape. I hope that some day that seascape, and the other priceless works of art return to their rightful place.


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