The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston is one of my favorite places.
I studied next door at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and visited nearly every week for four years.
Mrs. Gardner’s collection is both eccentric and extraordinary. With the exception of the still-empty frames resulting from the biggest art heist in American history in 1990, absolutely nothing has changed or moved since my college days, except that you now enter through the servants’ entrance rather than the front door as she intended, the result of a Renzo Piano intercession. This complete reversal of intentions as specified in her will reminds me of another unfortunate reversal, the relocation of the Barnes Collection in Philadelphia.
I hold my breath and close my eyes until I am within view of the magnificent atrium garden surrounded by Venetian Palazzo parts, assembled under her careful direction to make a resplendent home for her renowned collection of art and artifacts, mixed with her own secret sauce.
Piero Della Francesca, Raphael, Titian and Medici-tooled leather all mix in the most wonderful harmony.
Hidden treasures abound around every corner, like her jewel of a Fra Angelico secreted from first view next to a window that bathes it in the natural light the artist intended.