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Guide to the collection

af Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

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  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
This guide is an absolutely indispensable adjunct to a visit to the Gardner Museum.

Mrs. Gardner opened her museum in 1909. When she died in 1924, her will provided that nothing be changed or moved. All was to remain as she had left it. There was method in this, as she was an absolute genius at installation, and when she placed an item, she had a reason for that placement, particularly in its relation to other objects.

But there are no wall signs and the one page guides available in some of the rooms are not as detailed as one might like. And not all the rooms have them. Although this slim volume does not contain every item, either (well, there are a couple of thousand!), it does cover more of them, and gives more information. Because nothing can be moved, the guide can be very explicit as to where everything is located in a room or gallery. (My edition is from before the 1990 robbery, so it includes the stolen items. How sad to see an empty frame or a card saying "stolen". Someday a obsessive art collector will die, and his heirs, I hope, will return the ill-gotten goods.)

There's a short, but useful, biographical sketch as well, that will likely leave you wanting to learn more about this dynamic woman. If so, I'd suggest Douglas Shand-Tucci's biography, The Art of Scandal: The Life and Times of Isabella Stewart Gardner and Elizabeth Anne McCauley's Gondola Days: Isabella Stewart Gardner and the Palazzo Barbaro Circle.
  lilithcat | Aug 12, 2009 |
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