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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Visit an Absolute Jewel in the Crown of Boston Massachusetts: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Opened in 1903, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts has been preserved “for the education and enjoyment of the public forever.” A Venetian palace in the middle of Boston, Gardner's home is now a museum displaying her impressive, eclectic collection of European, American and Asian art, including sculpture, paintings, furniture, ceramics and textiles. 

Visit an Absolute Jewel in the Crown of Boston Massachusetts:  The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Visitors can stroll or rest in a spectacular sky lit courtyard filled with plants and flowers or learn about the famous 1990 Gardner Museum heist.

Enjoy our live visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in this Video where you can see many of the galleries you will enjoy!

Who was Isabella Stewart Gardner?

Born and educated in New York City, the spirited and stylish Isabella Stewart moved to Massachusetts in 1860 when she married Bostonian John Lowell Gardner Jr. The couple frequently traveled to Europe and the Middle East, which sparked and then nurtured Isabella’s interest in art. Interest led to amateur collecting, which turned into serious collecting after Isabella inherited her father’s fortune in 1891.

With dwindling space for display in their Back Bay home, the Gardners decided to establish a permanent museum for their growing collection, a venture Isabella took on solo after her husband’s sudden death in 1898. She purchased land in the little-developed Fenway neighborhood (Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, wouldn’t open for another 14 years) and got to work on Fenway Court, her name for her museum, which was designed to resemble a 15th-century Venetian palace. It officially opened in 1903, which is the museum we visit today.

From her private fourth-floor living quarters at the "palace", Isabella continued to acquire new artwork and personally arrange the museum’s collection. When she died in 1924, her will contained an endowment of $1 million with the stipulation that her art be permanently exhibited “for the education and enjoyment of the public forever” and that nothing in the galleries should be changed, and no items be acquired or sold.

Visit an Absolute Jewel in the Crown of Boston Massachusetts:  The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

During her lifetime, Isabella Stewart Gardner collected and carefully displayed a collection comprised of more than 7,500 paintings, sculptures, furniture, textiles, silver, ceramics, 1,500 rare books, and 7,000 archival objects —from ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, Renaissance Italy, Asia, the Islamic world, and 19th-century France and America.

Today strolling through Isabella’s treasures is a joy. After entering via the lobby in the museum’s new wing, completed in 2012, you cross a glass-walled corridor to the original museum structure, known as "The Palace", where three stories of galleries surround and view a glorious all-season garden courtyard.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum collection is so fantastically varied, and the setting so unique, that it isn't hard to see why the Gardner is one of the most popular museums in Boston and let's say it has competition! It’s bright, but cozy. Comfortable and refined both at the same time. Visitors are just as likely to admire the lush courtyard, or look down to marvel at the mosaic tiles, as they are to gaze at art hanging on the walls (or maybe not hanging there as you will see in a moment!).

In each gallery, there are laminated guides that identify the works displayed on or along each wall. Isabella didn’t label the artwork when it was first hung, and since her will stipulated that nothing in the galleries could be changed, the guides are a handy alternative to the traditional wall plaques.

Bring annextra battery for your phone if you wish to use the free audio guide, but the laminated guides give so much more detail!  

The Infamous Gardner Heist

In the early morning of March 18, 1990, two thieves disguised as Boston police officers gained entrance to the museum and stole 13 works of art valued at an estimated $500 million, making it the greatest single property theft in the world. The case was especially puzzling because more valuable pieces went untouched. Despite efforts by the FBI and a $10 million reward, the works have yet to be recovered. In recent years it’s come out that the FBI believes the thieves were members of a criminal organization based in the mid-Atlantic and New England, and that the loot resurfaced and came up “for sale” in Philadelphia during the early 2000s. Today, empty frames remind visitors of the missing works and the hope that they will eventually be returned.

Visit an Absolute Jewel in the Crown of Boston Massachusetts:  The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

special section on the museum’s website lets you explore the art stolen in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist.  

LTD recommends that you read The Gardner Heist for detailed information about the stolen masterpieces that have yet to be recovered!  

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