Gardner: drawn as if by lightning

A dashing individualist, “Mrs. Jack” Gardner startled Boston society by erecting a Venetian pleasure dome in Back Bay and filling it with masterpieces for the public to enjoy…

In buying old masters, Mrs. Gardner was a generation ahead of tycoons like Andrew Mellon and Henry Clay Frick. The collection of the latter, housed in what was briefly his sumptuous Fifth Avenue home, most nearly in America resembles her own. And if she did not always get what she thought she was buying, and who does? ; a Filippo Lippi which turned out to be a Pesellino, a Clouet now ascribed to Corneille de Lyon, and supposed works by Correggio Tintoretto, and Bronzino now attributed to followers of those painters; she could always point to verification of those treasures by the expert who was then the world’s leading authority on Italian Renaissance art. This was her protege Bernard Berenson, the dazzling Lithuanian-born youngster from Harvard, whose early studies in Europe she helped finance.

---The Isabella Gardner Museum is equally known for what it doesn’t have as what it does. In 1990, two men dressed as police officers broke into the famed museum in Boston and stole five Degas, three Rembrandts and a Vermeer, along with four other works, from off the wall and disappeared into the night, never to be seen again. For 21 years, the heist has been the subject of movies and countless articles but a clue as to whom the culprits are remain hidden. Recently, the robbery has made the newspapers again with the arrest of Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, who as the head of the city’s powerful mob at the time the paintings were stolen, must have known who committed the crime.--- Read More: image:

One of the first lion hunters in American society, Belle ( for Isabelle Stewart Gardner) knew everybody worth knowing. If photographic evidence and her portraits by Sargent, Whistler and Anders Zorn may be believed, she was extremely plain of face. But a long list of the most brilliant men of her time paid her homage while her adoring, well-bred husband paid her bills. As Oliver Wendell Holmes put it: ” Mr. Gardner has wealth and position; Miss Stewart has wealth and charm. The alliance must be satisfactory to both families.” Incidentally, it was not.

The climax of her career as collector and hostess, her most shining hour, was the opening of Fenway Court on New years night, 1903. She had bought the barren, swampy wasteland on which it stood in 1899; and if no woman of her time had a more lively flair for publicity, Mrs. Gardner could be as discreet as Plymouth Rock when she wanted to keep a secret. Speculation mounted as her Renaissance palace took shape, but Belle gave no interviews, dispensed no information. Although she showed a few foreign friends like Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, and the Archbishop of Canterbury through the house before its official opening, she wanted the big surprise to bowl Boston over. It did.

Carlo Crivelli. Saint George and the Dragon. 1470. Berenson described it to Mrs. Gardner as "more woderful than any Japanese lacquer... drawn as if by lightning" before he bought it for her in 1897. Though little is known of Saint George, who is here portrayed as a medieval knight, his traditional role as dragon slayer and protector of a virgin seems to be derived from the Perseus-Andromeda legend centered around Lydda in Palestine, where Saint George was martyred about the year 300. Image: Wiki

At 10:30 P.M. ablaze with her famous pearls and two huge diamonds set like the antennae of her butterfly in her hair, she stood atop a horseshoe shaped staircase in the Music Room- afterwards replaced by the Spanish Cloister. Muttering their protests, but consumed with curiosity, three hundred of her friends and enemies, the cream of Back Bay society, clambered up one staircase to meet their hostess and marched down the other. Fifty members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra under her friend Gericke played Bach, Mozart, Schumann, and Chaussen for an hour as the tension mounted.

---Artist: John Singer Sargent Completion Date: 1888 Style: Realism Genre: portrait Technique: oil Material: canvas Dimensions: 190 x 80 cm Gallery: © Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA, USA --- Source:Wiki

Finally, on cue, a mirrored door rolled back and the invited guests saw for the first time the three storied courtyard, scented with tropical flowers, aglow with orange lanterns from Paris and thousands of candles, the fountains tinkling, nasturtiums trailing down from the eight balconies taken from the Ca d’Oro in Venice. And beyond the orchids in the palm trees waited the old masters displayed in gallery after gallery on three floors. …

This entry was posted in Art History/Antiquity/Anthropology, Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *