AAA Editor Notes
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is at 25 Evans Way. Isabella Stewart Gardner was a philanthropist, art collector and noted high-society eccentric, and visiting the museum she created is a singular experience. She stipulated that the museum should remain unchanged so the public could always enjoy and learn from it.
The original 1902 building was modeled after a Venetian-style palazzo and featured an interior courtyard with a glass ceiling, the first of its kind in the country. Today this skylight not only ensures a climate-controlled environment for the art but allows sunlight to flood the courtyard garden, where floral displays change eight times a year. Visitors may not walk through the courtyard but can admire it from balconies on the second and third floors.
Paintings, sculptures, furniture, tapestries, rare books and decorative art objects are among the items on display in a series of galleries that feel more like touring a private home than a museum. Such artists as Raphael, Rembrandt, Michelangelo and Titian are represented. Among the highlights are Titian's “Europe”—purchased for what was then a world-record price—and a portrait of Gardner by John Singer Sargent on display in the Gothic Room, which was not opened to the public until after her death.
The Renzo Piano-designed wing opened in 2012 and provides a special exhibition gallery with a retractable ceiling; a greenhouse; and Calderwood Hall, a 300-seat performance space.
Photography and cellphone use are not permitted.
Guided tours are available. Food is available. Time: Allow 2 hours minimum.