Sunday, March 15, 2009

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

There are still several Boston-based attractions that I haven't yet been to...though I can now check off the "Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum" box, as we all went to see it yesterday. No pictures of my own, since cameras are not allowed, but I've pulled a few off the internet.

This is a small museum just a few blocks away from the massive Boston Museum of Fine Arts, in the Fenway neighborhood, and it has an interesting history. It was founded in 1904 by a wealthy patron of the arts (Isabella Gardner) who had the building made from scratch, but incorporating various antique architectural objects of art she had accumulated throughout her world travels. For example, there is a beautiful section in which original medievil French stain glass windows and church pews are exhibited.

The centerpiece of the museum is this large courtyard on the first floor. It is enclosed by a greenhouse roof and due to the tropical plants that grow there, the temperature in the museum is fairly toasty.

The collection is not large, but impressive. For instance, I distinctly recognized the painting "Europa" by Titian from my "Introduction to Art History" course I took in college. It's in the center of this picture from the "Venitian Room" on the 3rd floor.

A few other interesting factoids about the museum:

-anybody with the first name "Isabella" is admitted for free.

-in 1990 the museum was victim of the largest art theft in history: over 500 million dollars in art--including paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and items once belonging to Napoleon--was stolen by thieves dressed up as police officers! The identity of the thieves has never been determined.

-Isabella Gardner stipulated that the museum be displayed EXACTLY as she intended it--e.g., all the paintings and exhibits arranged as originally by herself--or the museum will be donated to Harvard University.

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