Isabella Stewart Gardner

“Isabella Stewart Gardner is one of the seven wonders of Boston. She often leads where none dare follow…She imitates nobody; everything she does is novel and original”

Isabella Stewart Gardner was born into a wealthy family in New York in 1840. She married John “Jack” Lowell Gardner Jr. in 1860 and the couple moved to his hometown of Boston

After their infant son died of pneumonia in 1867, Jack took Isabella to Europe and Russia, in the hope of rousing her from her depression. This was the first of many trips abroad

Isabella was already interested in art (she collected rare books and manuscripts) and when she met Bernard Berenson in 1886, a Harvard student, he became her chief art advisor, helping her acquire many masterpieces (Vermeer, Rembrandt, etc.). Berenson wrote of her: “She lives at a rate and intensity, with a reality that makes other lives seem pale, thin and shadowy”

After her husband’s sudden death in 1898, Isabella continued with their shared plan to build and open a museum in Boston

The building works started in 1899 and took 2 years to complete. She moved into the 4th floor living quarters and devoted herself to personally arranging the pieces in the museum

When she opened the museum to the public in 1903, visitors were able to see one of the finest private art collections in America and she continued collecting for the rest of her life

She died in 1924, leaving a museum “for the education and enjoyment of the public forever”

This striking portrait of Isabella was painted by John Singer Sargent, a friend of hers, in 1888 and has inspired us to recreate her necklace with matching earrings

📷 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum