Isabella Stewart Gardner

Isabella Stewart Gardner – collector extraordinaire. Among the artists represented in her Venetian style building in Boston are Titian, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Manet, Degas, Whistler and Sargent. And the first Matisse to every hit the shores of America.

Her good friend John Singer Sargent painted this portrait. He had nine goes at it before she was happy.

| John Singer Sargent, Portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner, 1887-8 |

I like the look of her. A millionaire Bohemienne is how a Boston newspaper described her in 1875.

Like all wealthy travelling Americans of the time she is wearing a Charles Worth dress. She stands in front of a piece of patterned silk which is part of the collection at the Gardner Museum. The textile forms a halo effect behind her head. I wonder who made the choice for the fabric?

Chatelaines were the type of chain the woman of a large house would wear to carry thimbles, and scissors, and keys. The enormous pearl ropes around her very fine waist are like purely decorative chatelaines. But she was certainly the keeper of this house.

I’ll be interested to see images of the new Renzo Piano extension to the Museum.

Julia Ritson

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