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Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum July 22, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Arts, History.
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I recently visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. This museum showcases the eclectic art collection of Isabella Stewart Gardner.

Here are five nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. John Singer Sargent was particularly noted for his society portraits; he produced two portraits of Isabella Stewart Gardner, one of which was painted soon after she had suffered a debilitating stroke – she would be dead within two years of that tragic incident. The other was more controversial as it painted her in an iconic – even somewhat religious – light and was initially hidden from public view. Yet Sargent enjoyed painting nature scenes where he could experiment with perspective and brushstrokes; one of his notable works in this genre is Yoho Falls.

2. Rembrandt van Rijn was particularly noted for his self-portraits, as he produced over eighty of them. He enjoyed experimenting with colors, perspectives and shading in producing that series of works. In one of his earliest efforts, he presented himself in a rather confident manner – this was probably intended to attract the attention of prospective patrons. The feathered hat and gold chain that he wore for this work accentuated its dignified atmosphere.

3. In Sandro Botticelli’s Virgin and Child with an Angel, the wheat and grapes are probably meant to foreshadow the Eucharist, which was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper to serve as a reminder of His sacrifice for the sins of mankind. This painting shows Mary carefully picking some of the wheat, which may have been designed to show that she understood its significance. Interestingly, the infant Christ is holding up his right hand as if He were in a teaching position.

4. St. Martin of Tours is most noted for the following – possibly fictional – account. One day, while wearing his military cloak, he met a shivering beggar. He quickly cut his cloak in half and gave one half to the beggar. That evening, he had a vision where Christ appeared, wearing the half-cloak that he had given to the beggar. Christ then blessed him, triggering the series of events that led to his becoming the bishop of Tours.

5. The legend of Lucretia begins with her being raped by the son of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, who was the king of Rome. Due to her chastity and overwhelming shame, she committed suicide after this abominable act. Her death shocked the people of Rome, and Lucius Junius Brutus seized this opportunity to rally opposition to the king; after overthrowing the monarchy he established the Roman Republic.

The museum contained many interesting pieces of art, including The Rape of Europa by Titian, Portrait of Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel by Peter Paul Rubens and El Jaleo by John Singer Sargent. I also enjoyed contemplating Gardner’s experimentation with lighting, furniture placement, and juxtaposition of art forms from diverse genres.

I don’t have any quibbles at this time.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to art connoisseurs and fans of history.

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