Isabella of Boston

Upon her marriage, Isabella Stewart was given an etiquette book entitled ‘A Lady’s Guide to Perfect Gentility’.  Belle dutifully took the book to Boston – and broke all the rules in a most delightful fashion.  

from “Mrs Jack” by Louise Hall Tharp

El Jaleo by John Singer Sargent

I was cleaning out a cupboard and came across this poster of the John Singer Sargent painting El Jaleo.  Like most posters, it is a mere representation of the original painting.

A few years ago I  was in Boston for a course and caught up with  friends I hadn’t seen in a long while.  We spent a great weekend catching up (and dealing with the shock that our kids were now teenagers).

Mrs Gardner in Venice by Anders Zorn

While I was there, Jo took me for a visit to her favourite museum in Boston – the Isabella Gardner Stewart museum.  From the outside this building looked rather mundane and box like and revealed nothing of the wonders inside.

Isabella Gardner Stewart was an unconventional woman born into a wealthy family in 1840.  She married well and discovered a love of travel and art  and collected beautiful works on her travels to Europe and the middle East in the late 1800s.

After her husband died in 1898 she started work on her home/museum and modelled it on 15th century Venetian Palazzos.  Isabella wanted a museum to house her treasures but designed it as a palatial home rather than a gallery and filled it with the art works, furniture, tapestries and treasures from her travels.  When it was finished she welcomed many artists, performers and scholars to stay with her and was a patron to many including the fabulous John Singer Sargent.  She left the museum to the public with the instruction that the current collection must remain in the state it was in upon her death, with everything arranged according to her stipulations.

To visit is a wonderful journey and an intimate view into the life of a rather strong and passionate individual.  As the museum website states, it…“is the only private art collection in which the building, collection and installations are the creation of one individual.”

The magnificent El Jaleo is positioned in an intimate space just before you leave the museum and leaves a lasting impact.  Go check it out if you are ever in Boston – it is one of a kind…

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About JenY

A blog about my life as a JenY...
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