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ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER MUSEUM

One needn’t be a patron of the arts to be wowed by the Gardner Museum. Its namesake traveled tirelessly to acquire a world-class art collection, which is housed in a Venetian-style palazzo where flowers bloom, sculpted nudes pose in hidden corners, and entire ceilings reveal their European origins. The palace is complemented by a striking modern building, designed by Renzo Piano, which holds an intimate performance hall, galleries, and a charming café.

NEED TO KNOW

prac_info 25 Evans Way • “T” station: Museum (green line/E train) • 617 566 1401 • www.gardnermuseum.orgOpen 11am–5pm Wed–Mon (to 9pm Thu) • Adm $10–$15; free for under 17s and anyone named Isabella

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  • Light salads and sandwiches are served in the museum’s café.
  • The museum’s Calderwood Hall hosts classical as well as contemporary music concerts. See website for details.
  • On the third Thursday of every month, the museum hosts creative studio projects as well as live music, dance and performance art.
TopTen

1. Titian Room

The most artistically significant gallery was conceived by Gardner as the palazzo’s grand reception hall. It has an Italian flavor and showcases Cillini’s Bindo Altoviti and Titian’s Rape of Europa, one of the most important paintings inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

TopTen

The sculpture Bindo Altoviti by Cillini

2. The Courtyard

Gardner integrated Roman, Byzantine, Romanesque, Renaissance, and Gothic elements in the magnificent courtyard, which is out of bounds but can be viewed through the graceful arches surrounding it.

TopTen

The green courtyard of Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

3. Long Gallery

Roman sculptural fragments and busts line glass cases that are filled with unusual 15th- and 16th-century books and artifacts. One such rare tome is a 1481 copy of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, which features drawings by Botticelli.

4. Tapestry Room

Restored to its original 1914 state, this sweeping gallery houses two 16th-century Belgian tapestry cycles: one depicting Scenes from the Life of Cyrus the Great and the other Scenes from the Life of Abraham.

5. Dutch Room

Housing some of Gardner’s most impres-sive Dutch and Flemish paintings, this room lost a Vermeer and three Rembrandts in a 1990 art heist that still remains unsolved.

6. Macknight, Yellow, and Blue Rooms

The Macknight, Yellow and Blue rooms house portraits and sketches by Gardner’s contemporaries such as, Manet, Matisse, Degas, and Sargent. Of particular note is Sargent’s Mrs Gardner in White.

TopTen

The Blue Room

7. Gothic Room

John Singer Sargent’s grand and somewhat risqué 1888 portrait of Mrs Gardner is here, as well as medieval liturgical artwork from the 13th century.

TopTen

A realistic portrait of Mrs Gardner

8. Veronese Room

With its richly gilded and painted Spanish-leather wallcoverings, it’s easy to miss this gallery’s highlight: look up at Paolo Veronese’s 16th-century masterwork The Coronation of Hebe.

9. Spanish Cloister

With stunning mosaic tiling and a Moorish arch, the Spanish Cloister looks like a hidden patio at the Alhambra. But Sargent’s sweeping El Jaleo (1882), all sultry shadows and rich hues, gives the room its distinctiveness.

10. Raphael Room

Gardner was the first collector to bring works by Raphael to the US; three of his major works are here, alongside Botticelli’s Tragedy of Lucretia and Crivelli’s St. George and Slaying the Dragon.

FENWAY COURT

Before Isabella Stewart Gardner died in 1924 she stipulated in her will that her home and her collection become a public museum. She believed that works of art should be displayed in a setting that would fire the imagination. So the collection, exhibited over three floors, is arranged purely to enhance the viewing of the individual treasures. To encourage visitors to respond to the artworks themselves, many of the 2,500 objects – from ancient Egyptian pieces to Matisse’s paintings – are left unlabeled, as Gardner had requested.

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