Page 1



~ M






This book has been made possible by the Richa rd C. von Hess Foundation.


20 11

1 abell a Stewa rt Ga rdner Museum , Boston

Design : Geoff Kapl an/Genera l Working Group New photog raphy: Sea n Dungan

Entries ed ited by J. Stanton Thomas With the assista nce of Oronzo Brunetti Translation : A nne-Marie Eze, Dav id Kim , A lan


Copyediting: Richa rd Lingner, G lori a Kury

Published in a ociation with G utenberg Periscope Publishing Lim ited

Printed by CS G raphics, Singapore

Fronti spiece: Raph ael Room, by Sea n Dunga n O pposite: Blue Room at the time of open ing of the Ga rdner Museum in 1903, by Tho mas E. Marr

a Camilla








Fausto Calderai










Catherine Hess

CATALOGUE Fau to Caldera i and A lan C hong 39

Note to the reader BLUE R ooM











Door and frame (Florence, early 16th century) Twelve chairs painted with exotic figures (Rome, 18th century)

92 102


Cassone: A procession (Si na, ca. 1470)

108 II 2


Paneling from the Pa lazzo Moros ini (Venice, 1760-80) TAPESTRY RooM






210 210

Two torcheres (Central Italy, 17th century) VERONESE RooM

Seat from a gig (Venice, ea rly 18th century)

216 220


Seven armchairs (Antonio Landucci, Rome, ca. 1773) L ONG GALLERY


C redenza (Tuscany, 1460s) C HAPEL


GoTH I C R ooM





Glossary Bibliography C h ronological list of the Italian furniture Index Acknowledgments


Isabella Stewart Gard ner (1840-1924) conceived her museum as a total work of art. Giving structure to the complex installation of the collection is her Itali an furniture, which for ms the "bones" of her designs. As I spent more time in the galleries, my fascination with the furniture grew. For example, I began to wonder about the history of the splendid gilded cha irs with painted splats in the Titian Room. O f all the categories of art that grace the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, furniture is the least studied. The collection is celebrated for its paintings, sculpture, and textiles, of which h ave been catalogued over the years. While overlooked by scholars, furniture fo rms a major part of the experience of the galleries, and

fi.elds, led a tea m that studied and con served much of the furniture in this book. Beautiful new photographs taken in n at ura l light by Sean Dungan enliven the text. Most of all, we thank the Richard C. von H ess Foundation and its managing trustee, Thomas Hills Cook, for funding this important research project. l h ave h ad the great pleasure of getting to know Tom Cook, who fi.rst discovered the Gardner Museum after read ing The Proud Possessors by A line Saarinen when he was a young boy in Michigan . H e convinced his parents to take him to the Gardner fo r his thirteenth birthday - when his love affair with the museum began . H e, too, h as become a member of the Gardner

visitors encounter ch airs, tables, chests, sideboards, and vitrines

fa mily, and his support and advocacy h as enabled us to publish this

with unusual decoration . This book catalogue the Italian furn iture in the museum but

fi.rst catalogue of Ita lian furniture. It is most gratifying to see this project come to fruition and I

also considers Isabella Gardner as a designer. O n her numerous

look fo rward to it inspiring further research around the role of fur-

travels, Gardner visited a wide range of museums, palaces, and

niture and decorative a rts in the making of a museum.

private residences, as well as the galleries of dea lers and studios of artists. At home, she designed and decorated her homes on Beacon


Street in Boston and at Green Hill in Brookline before she bega n


the task of creating her own special museum. In the museum, wh ich


opened to the public for the fi.rst time in 1903, Italian furniture set the stage for her collection . Rows of ch airs and tables articulate the walls, ju t as they would have in the grand palaces of Venice. In short, the furniture of the Gardner Museum helps us understand Isabella Gardner as museum-maker. This project h as also furthered the museum's goal of catalyzing thinking among scholars, artists, and curators as part of our mission to support the creative process. We are grateful to furniture scholar Fausto Calderai fo r his work on cataloguing the furniture, guiding our staff in research and conservation, and collaborating on special proj ects, such as our Chairs exhibition with photographer and artistin-residence Daya nita Singh . His deep knowledge, lively mind, and ebullient spirit has inspired us all, and he h as become a member of the Gardner Museum family. We thank Alan C hong, our fo rmer curator of the co llection , who conceived of this proj ect and has studied Isabella Gardner's role in acquiring and displaying the collection. Alan's scholarship and artistic leadership h as left a rich legacy of exhibitions and symposia Ii.lied with new discoveries. Valentine Talland, our senior ob8

jects conservator, whose keen intellect effects collaboration across

Anders Zorn, Isabella Gardner in Venice, r894. Oi l on canvas. Ga rdner Museum . Gardner ca lled the portait "a sketch" (Boston 1899).


Th i cata logue has been in.spired by my ex perience of America n

The co llection of Italia n furniture prov ides a m a ns of furth er

mu seums, where I have exa mined th ir furniture collections and

understa nding Isa bella Gardner a a collector a nd decorator. Th


rang of h r activitie a a connoisseur has be n gradu ally revea led

severa l visits, it became clea r that th re was a need for a book in

lectured on the history of Italian furniture. Over th cour

through her complex relatio n hip with Bern ard Beren on a well

English that wou ld pr ent an overview of Italian furniture.


as her special intere t in Venice, Asia, and th Middle Ages. 1 In

lector and scholars were familiar with French and English furn i-

contrast, she bo ught Italian furniture by herself, with no help fro m

tur , and in the United States, with Am rican furniture, but Ital-

Beren.son a nd little uppo rt from a nyone else , av her husband Jack.

ian furniture remained little known a nd ind ed rath r tra ng in

Thi i rema rkable in itself, but Gardner al o had no model among


American coll ctor , who universa lly avoided Ita li a n furn iture i.n.

atherin.e Hess of th J. Pau l G etty Museum in Los

Angeles conceived of just such a book and a ked for my h lp. An.-

favo ur of the fine joinery of French, Engli h , o r America n cab inetry.

other opportunity a rose in

when A la n C hong, curator of the

Furniture played a c rucial pa rt in her des ign impul e long before

I abell a Stewart Gardner Museum , invited me to Boston to assess

she imagined a museum. A s we trace how furniture was u ed in her


the qua lity of their Ita lia n furniture a nd consider whether a com-

home over the years, a nd moved aro und in the Gardner Mu um,

prehensive cata logue hould be published. After a ojourn of evera l

we witness her thinking a a decorator. While she wa influenced

days, during which I worked close ly with the museum's cu rators a nd

by the palazzi he visited, especially the Palazzo Barbaro in

conservators, I rea lized that such a book would ma ke a mea ningfu l

(where he ften. stayed), she wa perhap mo t pr foun.d ly affected

contribution. not only in revea ling intere ting piece of Italian fur-

by artists' studios. Th s in fo rmal venues of di play and work are

niture, but a lso by exploring the ta te of an importa nt collector who

closely echo d in the G a rdner Museum.

had a special relatio nship with Italy, but was known internationally almost exclusively for her marvelous paintings a nd sculpture . Before emba rking on this catalogue, I ought advice from ev-

Thi boo k wo uld no t h ave be n po ible witho ut Va lentine Talland a nd the tea m of conservators he directed over the y a r . They exa mined and treat d ma ny pieces of furniture fo r thi cata-

eral friend , including A lvar Gonzalez-Palacios, a n expert in Ita li a n

logue. Va lentine' techni ca l stud y of the mate ria l and techniques

decorative arts; Christian Witt-Do ring, a n Au trian schola r fami l-

of Ita lia n furniture fo rm a n essentia l pa rt of thi s book. S ta nton.

iar with America n collectio ns; and Simone C hia rugi, a conservator

Tho mas edited ma ny of the key entri es. We wo rked d o ly with

and scholar of furniture in Fl rence. Al l three chola rs nco uraged

Sean Dur~ga n., who made new photog raph s of the ga lleries a nd

me t accept the offer and promised their support. Also important

furniture, a nd Geoff Kapl a n, who de igned the book. We thank

was the collaboration of the Victoria a nd Albert Museum. Prepara-

peo ple who wo rked h ard to comp lete thi project: Stanton Th ma ,

tion for the exhibition At Home in Renaissance Italy, held at the

Anne-M a rie Eze, Jo eph

Victoria and A lbert Museum, London, in

Lingner. Mos t of a ll we a re grateful to the Rich a rd


enabled m to ex-

aravo, Li a Bevilaqu a, a nd Richard . von. He

amine a large number of piece of Renaissance furniture that h ave

Foundatio n. a nd Tho mas Cook, who took a ri k n o ur adven.tur-

long been in.accessible in mu eum storerooms o r private co llectio ns.

o u proj ect.

After numerou visits to Boston, I wrote this cata logue in Flo rence and Patmos, with the close collaboration of Oronzo Brunetti



and the generous upport of friend . A lvar Gonzalez-Pa lacios advised me on problems of style a nd helped with a rchiva l sources. Simone Chiarugi accompanied me to Bo ton to make a detailed technica l ana lysis of the furniture. After much debate, we have chosen to a rrange the cata logue by the ga lleries of the museum. In part th is was to capture Isabella Ga rdner's intentions in arranging her room , but also because the


collection was not intended to comprehen sively survey the hi tory of Italian furniture. It is not a museum's collection but a highly persona l selection.. Some entrie are much longer than others a we h ave attempted to unravel knotty problem of authenticity, attr ibution, restoration, and provenance. If this catalogue h as the d ual function of a guidebook for visitors through the rooms of the mu eum and also a n o utline of some aspects of the history of Ita lia n furniture, then we wi ll h ave achieved o ur goal. FAUSTO CALDERA!

I. On Berenson and Gardner, sec Had ley 1987 and C hong 20 10. O n Ven ice, Boston 2004. On Gardner anti As ia, Boston 2009.


cholarly study of Italian furniture began in earnest in the 1960s when A lva r Gonza lez-Palacios, a distingui shed connoisseur, o ught archiva l documentation to anchor his judgments on ch ronology and attribut ion .1 Prev ious book on Ita lian furniture were based on the unsupported op inions of art dea lers and collectors, which meant that furniture was not approached as a subj ect with a significa nt history. In the yea rs after World War 1, several well-illustrated books of this type appea red: George Hunter (1917 ), Willi am Odom (191 8), Frid a Schottmliller (1921) , Paul Schubring (1923) , A ugu to Pedrini (1925) , and G iu seppe Morazzoni (1927) . De pite their limitations, the e books outlined the challenges in stud ying Italian furniture. The authors rea lized, fo r examp le, that Italian furniture could be best approached by distinguishing regional Italian styles, which they did approx imately and with missteps. O ne significant exception to this pattern was Wilhelm von Bode's short study of Italian Renais ance furniture, which first appeared in 1902.2 Thro ugh specially commissioned photographs, Bode thoughtfully considered the architectural and pictorial connections of Renaissa nce furni shing, although the authenticity of some of the pieces he discussed is questionable.


It might be argued that Italian furniture does not ex ist at all, but rather there are many different regional histories of furniture in Italy. A single, unified narrative may not be po sible, at least not until the advent of striking modern designs in mid-twentieth-century Italy. The di tinctive and individual loca l styles of furniture reflected the internal divisions of Italy, which until unification in 1861, was a conglomerate of autonomous kingdoms, states, and city-states, which varied in size, political ystems, fo reign influence, economic development, and artistic traditions. By the late sixteenth century, Italy's politica l map had been defined by borders that would remain the same (w ith few exceptions) until l86r. In the northwest was the state of Savoy with its capital Turin; on the coast lay the Republic of Genoa, which became pa rt of Savoy in 1815. The Republic of Venice lay to the northeast, while to its west was Lombardy, with Milan as its principal city. In the midd le of the peninsula was the G rand Duchy of Tu cany, with its capital Florence, which had passed from the rule of the Medici to the house of Lorraine in 1737路 Rome was the capital of the Papal States, which extended from the Ad riatic Sea to the city of Bologna. In the south, Naples and Palermo were originally capitals of

Pietro Pifferti. Pedesta l, Turin, mid18th century. Wood inla id with rare woods, ivory, mother-of-pea rl , and torto iseshel l. Palazzo del Qu irinale, Rome



l. See especially Gonzalez-Palacios 1984 a nd

1986, republished in 2000. Others references are listed in the bibliography. 2. Bode 1902, wit h an edition of 1920.

G r<i nduGd worbho p' a fte r r1de, ig n hy G iova n 11atti , la Fom~ 1 n i . ahinel o f t he Pa lat in · Ekuo r, Floren c , 1709 . Musrn d q~ l1 Arge n ti , Pa lnzzn Pi tti, Flore ne <.:


3. ri , tofon o G affur i r1fter a d c., ig n hy Jacopo Li gozz i. Tahl · lo p with a v iew of Li vorno , Fl ore nce, ca. 1604 . Pi ·t re d u re. G; il le ria deg Ii Uffi zi, Flore nce

two auto no mo us states o ntrollcd by Spa in ; t hey

ninetee nth ce nturies, Ita li a n ma kers also ontin-

uni ted to form the Kingdo m o f the Two S i ilies in

u d to prod u e va ri atiom o n Rena issan e a nd

1815. In the no rth we re severa l o ther sma ll states

Ba roque furnit ure, esp · ia lly in Veni e whi h

descended fro m ancient republi s a nd do minions,

fa vo red neo-Ba roqu e furniture.

in luding Pa rma, Modena, a nd Lu c a. From th R nai ssa n e o nwa rd , each apita l see ms to have

B ' ginning in t he Ren absa n e a nd

o n t inu -

ing into the twentieth entur y, a rtists have had

had its turn as l -ade r in th e design a nd prod u ,

a de isive impa t on Ita lia n furnishings. In Flo r-

tion o f furniture.

ence, majo r pa inters, sc ulptors, and a r h itects

N onet heless, t here is littl ' q u stion that furn i-

designed furnit ure fo r the cit y's elite. Fro m wo rks

ture produced in the peninsula has a lo ng sha r d

made hy Ba

histo ry. During the Re nai ssa n e a nd Ba roque p ,,

carve r who beca me a n a r hitect (see at. 26 for a

ri ods, fro m the ftfteenth through the seventeenth

doorway fro m hi s wo rksho p) , to pie es designed

centuries, Ita lian courts set Eu ro pea n standards

hy Ha te a rtists li ke G io rgio Vasa ri ( 1511 - 1574) ,

fo r th e des ign of furniture. But at the end of t he

Ja o po Ligozz i (1547- 1627 ), a nd G iova nni Bat-

sev nt enth century, France took and kept the

tista Fogg ini (1652- 1725 ), Flo rentine furn iture

lead in shaping a risto ratic taste th ro ugh the pro-

he a me increasingly co mp lex and wa s mad , mo re

du tion of lu x ury goods. From this mo ment on-

sumptuo us th ro ugh the in o rpora ti o n of precious

ward, Ita lian furniture makers ad apted the ir work

materia ls. Ferdina nd o I, gra nd duke o f Tu sca ny,

to French models. However, Ita li a n furniture

found ed the O pifi io dcllc Pierre Dure in 1588.

preserved its own te hniqu es and mate ria ls, and

Eu ro pe's first o ur t wo rks ho p, it ga thered some o f

freq uently transfo rm ,d French forms into ent irely

the hest reat ive ta lents o f th e age to produ e in-

distinctive obje ts. Ind eed, impo rtant furnitu r>

la id stem ' furnit ure and o tlF r o hj e ts

makers, such as Pietro Piffetti (1701- 1777, fi g. 1) , iu seppe Magg io lini (1738- 18 14) , and G iuseppe

io d'Agno lo ( 1462- 1543), a wood-

( FIGS. 2,


W ith the patronage of severa l popes, s ulpto r, pa inter, a nd archite t G ian Lo renzo Bernini

Maria Bonza nigo (1745- 1820), won great a cla im

( 1598- 1680)

for merging fo reign motifs into a compos ite ye t

Ro me . He a lso designed furniture , o ften in col-

do minated

seve ntee ntur y

who lly Ita lian style. 1 During the eighteenth and

la horati o n with the A ustrian Joh a nn Paul (o r


l O n l'1ffctt1: l'c11 .1m 1992, .i ml A r<1 hcll,, ('1 f.111 1, Hhllll1 ILO ll ogn 1fl(. o- lc t ll' l ,lrl l' l' 111 t' I P d (l

log 1.1 d 1 l.1 voro dcl l'cl1, 111 1'd,1

I O rlll l'ql'

Plc t rn

P1ffc111· co n trlhut 1 dol umcnt ,ir1 r c r lc1 su,1 Vitti c ~t:o pc rt c r c1


CH.,'ll' ll P ll l' " nh;.1 111 dcl

{',d,1zin del Q u1ri mdc cd .dtri mo hd >," /Jo/ /r t mo d'artc, no. 1ll (ZOOS), pp. 2 l 52. O n M.1gg 1o l1 n1: Bcrctt1 1994 .!lld Bcrctt1 20 10. O n Aon z(in1 go: h.· rrnn ~ 199 1

4 ll ll" l l 2006.

Defining Italian furniwre

4. Andrea Brustolon and

workshop. Armcha ir from the Pisa ni sui te, Ven ice, ca. 1680. Ca rved wood . Palazzo de! Qu irin ale, Ro me

G iova nni Paolo) chor (1615- 1674, see fig. p. 32), who i responsible for the lower section of the surprising that Bernini's furniture is marked by

court. Giocondo A lbertolli (1742- 1839 ), a professo r at the Brera in Milan, fo llowed Piranesi's

his geniu fo r dynamic, richly textured culpture.

example in using serie of prints to disseminate

Baroque exubera nce pread acros the entire pen-

design s. Ornamenti diversi of 1782 and Alcune

insula, and was interpreted with exceptional skill

decorazioni di nobili sale of 1787 gave an impetus

Cathed ra Petri in Saint Peter's Basilica. 5 It is not

in G enoa by Filippo Parodi (1630-1702), a nd in

to interior decoration and anticipated some ch ar-

Venice by his pupil Andrea Brustolon (1662- 1732,

acteristics of the Roma ntic style. 8 After Italy's unification, the d ifferent region al

fig. 4) .6 Italy remained a key contributor to interior


5. G onzalez-Palacios 1970 and GonzalezPalacios 2000, pp. 93-104. 6. For Parodi: Paola Rotondi Briasco, Filippo Parodi (Genoa, 1962 ). For Brustolon: Biasuz and Buttignon 1969; a nd Bellu no 2009. 7. Gonzalez-Pa lacios 2007, in the ex hibition Piranesi as Designer (Cooper-Hew itt National Desig n Museum, New York, 2007). For his prints, see Wilton-Ely 1994. 8. For A lbertolli's furniture, see Colle a nd Mazzocca 2005; Beretti 2005. For Petitot: C irillo 2002. 9. On Frullini , see C hiarugi 1994, pp. 313-19,

332-45, 474-78. On Pogli aghi : G ua ldoni 1996.

Frenchman Ennemond A lexandre Petitot (17271801), spread the Neoclassical taste of the French

styles gradually lost their individual character-

design. Working in Venice and Rome as a print-

istics. The vogue in northern Europe and Great

mak r and architect, Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Britain for rev iving past styles of furnishings,

(1720- 1778), attempted to re-create the decorative schemes of a ncient Rome through study of

especially of the Middle Ages and Renai sance,

archaeological find s. He embellished these into full designs fo r interiors and furni shings. Piranesi's Diverse maniere d'adornare i cammini ed ogni

Insofar as it approp riated variou regional styles for national consumption, the neo-Renaissance

altra parte degli edifizi of 1769 contained designs

Luigi Frullini (1839-18n, see figs. pp. 35, 36) of

fo r tables, ch airs, and other types of furniture in

Florence and Lodovico Pogliaghi (1857- 1950) of Milan sh owed work at international exhibition s


ancient style. In 1778, he produced another book of furnishing designs, Vasi , candelabri, cippi, sar-

helped to sh ape the search for a national identity.

style now came to constitute a new vernacular.

and the e were eagerly acquired by the new mu-

seums of decorative arts that arose in London, tables designed by Pi ra nesi for Ca rdinal Rezzo- Vienna, Berlin, and elsewhere.9 Simultaneously, nico survive, and moreover his influence can be Italian makers bega n to craft neo-Rena issance een in furniture produced in Rome at this .time, furniture to furnish wealthy homes in Britain including the ch airs made for Marcantonio Bor- and the United States. The form and scale of the ghese ( CAT. n4) . original models (some seen only in paintings) had In Parma, Pirane i's contemporary, the to be adapted to new domestic needs. But many

cofagi, tripodi, lucerne, ed ornamenti antichi. Two


5. Lettuccio. Siena, 2nd half of the 15th century. Wa lnut with intarsia. Palazzo Pubblico, Siena 6. Leonard van der Vinne (d. 1713) . Cabinet, Fl orence, 1667-68. Ebony, in laid with mother-of-pea rl, ivory, and va rious woods. Museo degli Argenti, Pa lazzo Pini, Florence

collectors preferred genuine Renaissance furniture to complement their paintings and sculpture, and in doing so unwittingly created a market for forgeries. Authentic Renaissance furniture was in very short supply, and Italian furniture makers and dealers had few qualms about filling the gap between rea lity and illusion.10 THE ARTS OF ITALIAN FURNITURE One approach to understanding the specia l nature of Italian furniture is to con sider its intrinsic connection s with the supposedly higher arts of architecture , scu lpture, and painting. From the Rena issance onward, these disciplines contributed to the des ign and production of furniture. Renaissance furniture was frequ ently conceived as small-scale architecture that adhered to the vocabu lary of the classical orders, even if it was applied in decorative fa shion. Architecture thus governed the structure of a piece. In marriage chests, cabinets, and credenzas, an architectural framework defined proportions and determined the object's relationship to its setting (FIGS . 5, 6) . Drawers, table tops, and cabinet doors were arranged like windows and doors on a build ing facade . C ornices and pediments crowned pieces of furniture as they might a palazzo. In churches, choir stalls were separated by columns or pilasters that supported complete arrangements

of architrave, frieze, and cornice. And in the fifteenth and ea rly sixteenth centuries, intarsia (inlaid wood) often reprod uced architectural structures and landscapes. A s a rule, Ita lian furniture resembles sculpture in its sensitive treatment of wood and marble, as well as its ro bust physica l presence. Furthermore, it frequently fea tures sculpture which , starting out as bas-relief and small ornamental figures in the Renaissance, took on a much stronger role in the seventeenth century. The complete fu sion of sculpture and furniture is characteristic of the Baroque. Supports became figures full y ca rved in the ro und or plant fo rms of great complex ity (FIGS. 4 , 7 ). In some instances the furniture of this era was entirely scenographic. Conceived as an integral


part of an interior, whether church or palace, tables, mirrors, and ch airs morphed into fi gures, animals, fo liage, and rocks to create a setting fo r aristocratic ritu als. In seventeenth-century Ita ly fo rm fo llowed art, not function . Painting is common on all types of Italian furniture (FIG. 8). During the fifteenth century, renowned painters decorated wedding chests (cassoni) with scenes of intellectual sophistication that would h ave a profo und influence on the 11

future direction of history painting. This high stand ard was maintained even on a smaller scale,

10. O n the challenges of identifying authentic Renaissa nce furniture, see Calderai and C hiarugi 2006; London 2009; and entries in

this cata logue. 1l. The literature on Renaissa nce cassoni is immense. Discussion of the examples in the Gardner Museum and the A merica n collecting of casson i ca n be found in Bosron 2008 {with further references) and C hong 2008. A lso London 2006, Musacchio 2008, and Lo ndon 2009.

f) efining Italian / 1m1i11<re

7. A ttrihuted to llio ni gi Ni gett i after a dc, ign by G io rgio Vasa ri. Table, Floren ce , 1570. Musco deg li Argenti, Palazzo Pini , Florence

8. Painted by cbaotiano C onca ( 1680- 1764) and workshop. Two-pa rt ca binet , Rome, ca. 1730. Kun stgcwerbemu ocu m,

S taatli chc Musccn zu Berlin

for exa mple o n the backs of ha ir or o n drawer fronts.

il<ling, wh ich was pri ze<l in the decora-

prod uce furnitu re incorporating these materia ls, abinet makers need cl to collaborate with other

ti on of furniture, atta ined a particula rly refi ned

professio na ls who had the spe iali zed knowledge

level of exc ution in Ita ly. ln t he ea rly eigh teenth

required to cut and carve materials often as pr -

century, im.itation la quc r a lso became a n impor-

io us as g ms.

ta nt su rfacc treatmen t, as it did in much of Eu rope. The J c ire to replicate true


sia n lacq uer (iirushi)


lc<l to the development of o mplex japa nning

The Isabella Stewart

ardner Mu eum is a special

tc hniqucs that cnta ile<l multiple oats of tinted

institution. in more ways than one. It distinguishes

va rni hes an<l thinned pigments. ln Venice a n<l

itself from other A meri a n institutions by it origin

Rome, Ita lian furniture imitated Asian models,

in the persona lity and visio n of a single fo under.

while at the same time offering new styles and patterns (sec ats . i6, 99,

100 ) .

The use of rare materia l was ye t another

In pla nning h r mweum , lsab Ila


Ga rdner sought out coll ction.s, bo th private and public, in Europe . While absorbi ng these models

disLinguishi n.g feat ure of Ita lia n fu rni ture. Exoti

of o llecting a nd decorating, ' he moved beyond

materia ls were highly pr ized in the Rena issa nce

th m to create a highly indiv idua l approa h

as naLura l wonders or as relics o( ancient Ro me.

based o n the lta lia n. res idences she v isited. Her

Beginning in the Renai ssa nce, fu rniture make rs

practi c of IT1i x in.g furniture of different p riods

began to venee r, encrust, and over their pi~ces

and origins shows an understanding of the inte-

with such ra rities

riors of pa lazzi wher she saw pieces dating from

(F IC .

9), in lud ing ancient

marbles, sem i-precious stones, ivo ry, mother-of-

the century a longside those from her

pcarl, ora l, tortoiseshell, and exotic wood ' . To

own day. Moreover, she endowed her museum


9. Pi etro Piffetti , with mo unts by Frans:o is Ladatte and G iovanni Paolo Venasca. Casket on ra nd, Turin, 1745. Wood in laid with mo ther-of-pea rl , gilded bron ze fittings. Victori a and A lbert Museum, Londo n

with the mo t extensive collection of Ita lian furniture, from all its regions, ever brought to the United State . It is remarkable that Gardner avo ided certain practices of her era. She acquired not only Renai sa nce furniture (or forged Rena issance furniture), as did most collectors with any interest in Italian art. She gave equal weight to the pa inted and lacquered pieces produced in eighteenth-century Venice and Rome. Nor did she attempt to create period rooms - interiors based on the misguided assumption that historic rooms had furni hings solely from that same epoch. Gardner understood that the past is betrayed if it i orga nized into rigid categories. Her sense of continuity and overlap between historica l eras is ev ident in her choice and arrangement of furni shings in her museum. The Italian furnishings do not imply frame her famous paintings, but by themselves fo rm a rich collection of color and form, historical allusion and contemporary attitude, that makes visiting her museum an incomparable experience.




Alan Chong he insisted that her pa lac - with all its ro mance and art and history - h ad set up round h e r a whirlwind of sugges ti o n that n eve r dropped fo r an hour. lt wasn't therefore, within such walls, confinement, it wa the freedom of all the centuries.


The Wings of the Dove by Henry Ja mes appea red in 1902, just as lsabella Gardner was preparing to open her remarkable museum in Boston. ln the novel, Milly Theale, a dying American heiress, rent an old palace in Venice in which to pend her final days. She has much in common with lsabella Ga rdner, not least because both fell in love with art-fi lled rooms overlooking the Grand Canal, in Isabella's case the Palazzo Barbaro, which also prov ided the inspiration for the fiction al setting. James , like Gardner, understood the power of art in uggestive ettings - palaces or mu eums - that layer art, history, and memory. At her museum, lsabella Gardner set an elaborate stage fo r the enjoyment of art. A feeling of domestic intimacy, of lived-in roo ms, is created

I. i52 Beacon Street, late i89os. Isabell a Gard ner turned the room above the entra nce into a showcase fo r fl owers and plants.

by sumptuous tex ti les, small souven irs, a well as an abundance of tables, ch airs, and cabinets of different date mixed together. Wh ile often overlooked in preference to Gardner' collection of paintings and sculpture, furn iture plays a strong

I a m grateful for the research and advice from Ri ch ard Lingner. I. Henr y Ja mes, Th e Win gs of the Dove, edited by John Bayley (Harmondsworth , 1986), p. 361. See hong 2009. 2. In the federal census conducted in the summer of 1860, Jack and Isabel la Ga rdner were !iving with Jack's parents at G reen Hill in Brookline. In 1861, they we re living at 126 Beacon Street in a house ow ned by John Jeffri es, Jr., a rea l estate agent; The Boston Directory (Bos-


ton , 1861), p. 179; Ga rdner 1933, p. 202). They moved into 152 Beacon Street in 1862; The Boston Directory (Boston, ), p. .

163 1862 3. Joseph Ga rdner li ved at 147 Beacon St., Julia at no. 145. John L. Gardner Sr. (who lived at 7 Beacon Street) built houses at nos. 143, 145, 147. 158, 168, and 170 in 1861, a nd nos. 182 a nd 184 in 1866. Bunting 1967, PP路 403-5. 4. Shortl y after Jack's death in 1898, Isabella received an anonymous note:


1n your sharp

ex tre mit y of th is late fortune pe rmi t me to of..

fer my hum ble blessing. The frequent passers by !of] yo ur house are ve ry grateful fo r the ve ry beautiful ex hibitions of flowers which you h ave so long and so generously displayed for us tn you r bay wi ndow. I find nothing equa l to it in Bo!>ton, anJ yo u do not permi t your great sorrow

to inte rrupt it . Thanks!"

role in her museum. lsa bella Gardner's collecting a nd disp lay of

1866.3 lsabella's last h ouse - her mu seum - would

Italian furniture goes to the very essence of her

also be located on newly developed la nd: her

taste . Her interest began long before she started

buildings mark the expa nsion of Bo ton into

collecting old master paintings , as she ca refu lly designed and furni shed h er home . So lon g as

outlying areas. lsabella G ardner seems to h ave been guided

Gardner's stagecraft is ex plained away as imitation of the aristocratic reside nces she visited or as an attempt to offer a n alte rnative to la rge

by two interests not at all unusua l for th e age: music a nd ga rden ing, and sh e designed all h er homes to incorporate substa n tial conservatories

public museums, we miss t he fu ll resona nce of h r endeavor. Gardner used h e r furn iture to re-

a nd recita l rooms. At 152 Beacon Street, the

interpret historic settings, a process that she began with two ea rlier houses th at she decorated.

with lu xuriant vegetation to catch the sunlight and del ight passers-by ( FIG. l). 4 This curio us

152 BEACON TREET ln 1862 Mr. and Mr . John L. Gardner Jr. moved

into the house at 152 Beacon Street purchased for them as a wedding gift by the bride's father, David Stewart.2 The house lay at the edge of an area recently reclaimed fro m marshland in Boston' Back Bay. Jack's brother Joseph and sister Ju lia moved in across the street where their father h ad eight houses built between, 1860 and

sh allow front rooms of t he main floor were fi lled

const ruction, a lit tle like a florist's shop front, is an early manifestation of Isabella's concern with insta ll ation and display. The initial decoration of th e house feat ured neo-med ieval and neo-Rena issance furnishings then very much in vogue in A merica and Britain. T he libra ry, fo r exa mple, was adorned with an A rts and Crafts mantelpiece bearing griffons from the Gardner crest as well as the motto, "Valet anch ora virtus" (virtue is a strong anch or)

2. Library at 152 Beacon Street, ea rly 1880s. The Da nte chair in t he fo regro und is sti ll in t he museum (cat. 161) . Th e Spa ni sh portra it at uppe r left was later d isplayed in Gard ner's private apartment in t he muse um. Photograph perh aps by Thomas Marr

(F IG.

2). Isabella may well have been re ponsible 5

3. Dining Room at 152 Beacon Street, late 1890 . The elabora te neo-R nai ssa nce sideboa rd a nd Arts a nd rafts wa ll paper date from around 1880, but the French sixteenth-century chest at t he ri ght was acqui red in 1897.

displayed neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissa nce furni-

for adding the motto to the family insignia. T he

ture, often in complete interiors that allowed visi-

Renaissance-rev iva l furni hings, including a so-

tors to envisage their own home decorated with

ca lled Dante chair that urvives in the museum,

wallpaper, obj ects, rugs, painting , and furniture

enhanced the claim to noble Eu ropean ancestry.

of this sort (Fl G. 4) . In 1880, I abella and Jack Gard ner bought the

Res idences in Europe and the United States during the second ha lf of the nineteenth century were given an air of distinguished lineage

house next door to 152 Beacon Street, and the bui ldings were merged und r the direction of John

H. Sturgis, ne of the architects of the old Museum tique and carved with figures and fo liage. W h ile of Fine Art on Copley Square and the C hurch 7 vaguely Renaissa nce in style, furniture was fas h- of the Advent, of which I abella was a member. ioned to meet mod rn needs: cabinets were given This double hou was the fir t iteration of I abella wide glass fronts, benches were outfitted with Gardner's keen interest in interior de ign. Walls upholstered eats never before deemed necessa ry. were knocked through to create ample, fluid space , Isabella followed suit. She placed an elaborately sometimes connected by step . The principal enca rved credenza dating from the l88os in the trance opened into an expa n ive suite of reception alcove of her dining room, and disp layed on it a rooms - a dramatic unfo lding of space impossible growing collection of silver (F IG. 3). Renaissa nce- in the narrow row houses of Bo ton's Back Bay, rev ival furnishings attracted particu lar attention but reminiscent of the piano nobile of an Ita lian at t he Centennial Exh ibition held in Phi ladel- palazzo. When Gardner began to collect Italian art phia in 1876, which the Gardners visited.6 On in the 1890s, the similarity with Italian structures t hat occasion, Europea n and American des igners beca me even more marked (FIG. 8). through abundant use of wood stained to look an-

5. The motto i> rccorJcJ


the coat of a rms

adopted by Jack's brother George Ga rdner; illustratio n in Gardner 1933, p. 268. Howeve r, the motto is also that of Baron Ga rJner o f Uttoxcter, createJ ba ro net in 1794; Bu rke 1832, pp. 505-6, with illustratio n [and o ther editions]. ince the Boston Ga rJners descend fro m Tho mas Gardner who settled in Ma sachusett> in 1624, the motto was proba bl y adopted in t he nine tee nth centur y bascJ o n Bri tish ari stocrat ic practice.

6. Recorded in Jac k Ga rdner's "List of trips taken, 185 1-83." O n furniture at the fair, sec Ferris I877 a nd David Raiz man, "WorlJ's Fair; and rhc Renaissa nce Rev iva l



185 1- 1878" (paper at o llege A rt Association, New York, 201 1). 7. Sturgis's ro le is rcporteJ by Bunting 1967, p. 401. O n Ga rdner a nJ the hurch of the Adve nt , sec Lingne r 200 1, pp. 31-33.

4. Furniture display of Shoolbred and Co. of London at the Philadelphia Centenni al Ex hi bition, r876. From Ferri s 1877, p. 100.

5. Entrance hall of 152 Beacon Street, ca. 1890. To the left of the mantel is a Napoleonic fl ag and two neo-Renaissa nce benches (cat. 98 and pp. 88-89).

6. Empire-style armchair, A merica n or French, 1870s. Purch ased as from the Tu ileries Palace, it appears to h ave been made by Sypher and Co., New York.

As her house was being expanded, Gardner


labels with inventory numbers, but these are ap-

bought several pieces of French Empire furniture

plied to cross braces rather than to the structure

said to have belonged to Napoleon. The source was

of the chair. The heaviness of the carving further

Obad iah Sypher (1833- 1907), an antique dea ler in New York, who acquired numerous Napoleonic

indicates that they are reproduction s rather than originals of the early nineteenth century. The legs

objects at the auction of the Villa San Donato in

of the chairs are stamped with unidentified initials,

Florence. 8 The New York Times described a tricol- "C. W. PAT. ," which are also found on a chair of the ored banner from Napoleon's first regiment of the 1870s (also long in the United States), signed by 8. The collection contained many objects owned by Napoleon because Napoleon's niece

grenadiers, which Isabella quickly purchased and

had mar ried A natoly Demidov, the first prince

installed in the entra nce hall at Beacon Street

the Florentine maker Luigi Frullini.10 It is possible that the tamp is that of an American dealer or

5) . She also acquired two cabinets that Syph-

maker. The chairs are certainly forgeries, probably

er incorrectly associated with Napoleon at Elba.9 But a more serious deception was to come. In l 88 o,

manufactured in Sypher's own factory, which em-

of Sa n Donato. The New York Times, I October 1880, a nnou nced Sypher's acquisitions at the auction. Sypher had sold che Ga rdners several pieces of neoiRenaissa nce fu rniture, some con ~ rai ning genuine elements (cats. 80, 94) . 9. The cwo chiffonniers, now in the Short Gal-

lery, were indeed bought at the Sa n Donato auction, but no connection with Napoleon on Elba is mentioned in the cata log ue: Florence, 15 March 1880 (lot 1854, in Chambre a couch er).

(FI G.

the Gardners purchased six Empire-style chairs reportedly made for the Tuileries Palace, Napoleon's principal residence in Paris (FIG. 6). They are stamped with a crowned T and h ave old-looking

ployed a hundred workers. In 1895, he was accused of fa lsifying receipts to evade customs charges, a common enough practice among dealers and collectors (the Gardners included). 11 More damaging was the revelation that Sypher h ad applied fake

hallm arks to ilver plate a nd mislab led new pieces

Fro m the a lta r creens taken from Ita lia n

of furniture. In 1883, soon after th do ubling at Beaco n

churche to the Fr nch eighte nth-century

treet, the Ga rdners embarked on a n exten ive

Fr nch a nd Germ a n painting to the portrait

trinket a nd toys , fro m t he masterpi ce of

journey through A sia. Isabella returned with a

of the mi tress of t he hou

trove of o uvenirs t hat soon enriched h r homes.

paint d by

C hine e silk h angings and bl ack h a rdwood fur-

plac , - ev rything,

niture were added to everal roo ms along with a

longed to the grenadi rs of Napoleon' guard ,

range of mailer

bject . The author T. R. Sul-

(the fine t ver

a rgent) , ev rything i

in its

ven a fl ag which b -

French a rmy to the corn r of a renai sa ne

7), which was "fi ll d with ra re and beautiful things fro m every clime . .. 'Everything here is a

ma ntelpiece [fig. 5]. There is no crowding,

remembrance,' sa id the hostes , who was a rrang-

pervades the whole; it i

ing orchids in a glass." 12 ullivan witnessed a rit-

no confu ion , no how; a ma terl y ha rmo ny imply the exq ui site

etting fo r a c ha rming woma n .15

ual of acquisitio n a nd display, at which Gardner was center stage. Her delight in this role l d her

Bentzon had a rri ved just in time to ex perie nce

to en large her ho use, collect with passion , a nd

thi s ta tefu l di play, fo r I abell a was e nterin g a

eventua lly found a museum where her style wo uld

p ri od of fr nzied buying, with th

be all-pervas ive.

the judicio u a rra ng ment of the rooms wo uld soon va ni sh. A s painting , culptur , a nd fur-

An important indication of lsab Ila's seriou

result th at

dedication to design was her preoccupation with

niture a rriv d,

h av ing her interiors photographed. Dozen s of

ava ilable space, while hundred of c rates waited

images record the changing a rrangements at 152

in wa reho uses in Bosto n a nd Pa ris. By 1896,

Beacon Street as well as at her ho u

in Brookline

h e cra mmed them into eve ry

Jack a nd Isa bella Gardner had decided to fou nd

and the Gardner Museum. A major additio n or alteration in deco r wo uld be immediately cap-

a private museum fo r th eir growing collecti o n of

tured. The principal roo m at Beacon Street were

Their fir t idea h ad b en to r bu il d yet aga in the Beacon S tree t ho use, thi time as a mu eum

documented after the renovations of 1880, then

12. 6 February I 9 1; Sulli va n 19 17, p. 5. 13. ... cvcrn l photog raph s date from before

l884 because Lhcy Jo no t . . how As ia n o bject" bought on th e world trip : fi g. 2; t wo ph o w ~

graphs o ( the Boudoir (one . . howing a La Farge bought in 1880) , two oft he Drn wing Room

(one . ., bowing the Dclaurn x bought 1882 one

maste rpi eces.


o f the D ining Room, and two of the entrance

aga in a ro und 1890. 13 She commis ioned several

with a small apa rtment fo r themse lve o n the top

different ·photographer in the mid-1890 as the

floor. The a rchitect Will a rd

rooms began to fill with her art collecti on, bet r

recorded that in ptemb r 1896 lsa b Il a Ga re.In r "asked me to see if there were a ny r st ri c-

she settled o n Tho mas E. Ma rr (ca. 1850- 1910) as

8. Ent ra nce h a ll of 152 Beacon S tree t, looking in to t he Red Drawin g Roo m, late 1890s. Gondo la la mr• a nd ve lvet h anging> acco mra ny a portrait by iambatti sta Mo roni a nd both er acz and ge nuine Ren a is a nce furniture (cats. 7 1, 28 ). At left is th e pla nt-fi ll ed room fac in g th e street.

which eems to recoun t the glo rie of t he

liva n h ad lunch with Isabella in h r bo udoir (FI G.

7. Bo udoir of 152 Beaco n treet , late 1890s. In th e roo m a rc ca ts. 103, 48 , a:, well a hine:,c bookca:,e at the righr .

a rs (1 83 7- 1920)

her principal photograph r. 14 A French writer, Therese Bentzon, visited

tio n o n her Beacon Street ho use lo ts, a nd a keel

in 1895 and concluded that Mr . Gard ner h ad

with living apa rtments ov r. S he wa nt cl me to

me to ma ke pla n s for he r showing a Muse um 16

avo ided turning her ho use into "some gorgeou

keep the matte r secret fro m v rybody."

curiosity shop or some showy museum of decora-

wo rri ed, however, th at th lot wa s too sma ll a nd

tive art."

too dark for a mu

um .17


hall . From the mid-1890" arc a rhotog rnrh of the Boudoir, fi ve of the Dra wing Room (one with the >tamp of John 1-1 . Thursto n from 1895 or later). The numbered Marr phorog raph1<1 all date from 1899 tO 1900. 14. Marr began LO work with h 1>


A rrhur

from c1ro unJ 190 1, when rhc firm wa' n illed T. E. M arr & Son. A rthur cont1nUt.:d w work fo r Ga rdner af! cr h1> fa1 her death . 15. Bcntzon 1895, l'P· 130-3 1. 16. Will ard Scar> diar y, I Se ptember 1896.


orinn ~1 Lindon Smith re po rt~ rhar wh en

dining with the G ardncrs 111 the foll of 1898, Jac k advocated hui l din ~ on harrcn land 1n the Ft' nway bccau1'!C il pc rm1ncJ light from al l

mies. Smith 1962, p. 154.


Gardner tyle

Sea rs a nd his partner C harle C ummings h ad



be residential, in the sa me manner

hurch (1874- 75) a nd

as Isabella's old neighborhood in the Back Bay,

worked fo r Jack Gard ner a nd his brother. G iven

with row hou es lining the mea ndering parks

this experience, Sea r is ure to h ave known that

laid out by Frederick Law O lmsted. A yea r after

desig ned New O ld South


she bought her propert y, the Museum of Fine

I abella's idea . Jack appreciated Sea rs as a good

Arts bought land nea rby for its own, much la rger

ma nager rather than as a creative fo rce.

building. The residential cheme fo r the Fenway

h is role would be re tricted


dissolved as schools bought up multiple lots fo r l at present rather incline to ummings a nd Sea rs, although 1 do not like th ir taste ...

their new structu res. Just before works of a rt were removed from

the busine s part is per- 152 Beacon Street, Gardner opened the house haps better with ea r than anybody a nd we for a public viewing that benefited the Industri al might prevent th ta te being gla ringly of- School for C rippled a nd Deformed C hildren.

good attention


fen ive. Moreover ea r has h ad experience

She prepa red a small catalogue, Art Exhibition:

of la rge building .18

Mrs. John L. Gardner, 152 Beacon St., Boston, that was so ld fo r twenty-five cents. 20 The Bea-

Jack Ga rdn r died in December 1898. Wit hin

co n Street house was stripped even of its pa n-

two weeks of the funeral, Isa bella ca lled Sea r

eling, fireplaces, a nd molding so that Gardner

to r view plans fo r rebuilding 152 Beacon

The very next day, howev r, she announced th at

co uld duplicate he r favo rite rooms in the private apa rtment on the fourt h floo r of the mu seum.

she had a better idea. The mu seum was now to

According to Corinna Sm ith , Gardner's "gon-

be bu ilt on land he had just purch ased in the

dola" ch air (probably cat. 99) was aga in placed

Fenway. The larger lot wou ld prov ide the light

at the foo t of her bed .21 When the old house was

Jack had wanted, and roo m enough fo r a theater.

sold in 1904, it wa on the co ndition that it be torn down a nd numbered 150 rather than 152,


"She made no reference to the probabl co t of the building," Sea r noted. 19 The ite chosen fo r t he n w mu eum was 9 . Green Hill , Brookline, 1902

18. Jack to his brother George, 31 December 1885; Massachusetts Histori ca l Society, Boston. 19. Sca rs Jiary, 29 December 1898: "Ca lleJ on tylrs. J. L. Gar<lner last evening a nd talked over the d raw in gs o f the new stable and a l terat i o n ~ o f

the house with her a nJ W. A. Gardner. With a 20

few ir1inor c hanges they pro no unced th e draw~

ings satisfactory and <lirectc<l me to get che p ro~ posa ls a nJ sta rt th e work as soon as possib le."

30 December: "she informed me th at she h aJ purch aseJ a lot of land 100 ft . by 150 ft. on the Back Bay Pa rk to build the Museum upon - Thm she wanted me to make new drawings, & to includ e a small theat re wit h t he Mu seum, the

Mu seum to be one story less in he ight tha n the o ne drawn for her at 152 Beaco n

20. Boston 1899.


artc r 1925, p. 177, says that

the house was open for three J ays in March 1899. 2l. Smith 1962, p. 161: "She drew attention to th e fact th at he r bedroom was a n exact replica of her former one, even to Joc'.s water,color copy of Sa ncta Caterina .. . placeJ o n a gondo la ~ca t

at the foot of her bed."

which she h ad used. "Thus Mrs. Gardner, who craved continuity a nd the perpetu at ion of h er


10. Isabella Gardner in the conservatory she added to G reen Hill, late 1890s 12. G reen Hill, late 1890s; center room with silk h angings the Gardners had bought in Ch in a in 1883

11. Dining Room at Green Hill, late 1890s, with cat. 32 and u 8 13. Music Room at Green Hill, late i89os, with Venetian furniture (includ ing cat. 59) and a medieva l-style fireplace (see also p. 79 )

cw ~U:,~µ,_~<

;J;,a~~~;:~~ .J'~~~ d




r I ~ =aoo.

Dolio ct grando Pendulo ct ~ bo.8C &. gnino, on Boule, du Wmp11 do Louil XV. ,,,.,...,...... :}67. Oro.ndo Pondulo do table, Louil• XV, Riebe botte do formo monumo11 tld0. £308· Deus m_ogn HlquCI PauWuils d t.lmps do Loui• XV. IUcho ],. .M d(lco ration. · Oouior 0. deux nipartimcnt.8. 4 J'V" 1 300. Deuit F'l\ut.ouih1 pl\roi111. 'II 370. Dou~ li'1Lt1l.euihs paroila. 371. Doux Fo.u paroils. } ~I oh - 372. Doux f<'aut.ou ils parcile. JjO (Jr~ 373. _Troia J?CLu.J.euUJ oru:oil 1.




/J () D\ '




10 -

Al10Jo:NTS. - 1110. La Sni oW Fo.m illo tr011-Lrnu ha11-rolh1( on nrgont. ropouHO ot ci11c\O . XV fl • 1if>clo. 4'...>0. Ln l·' uil" on Egy11tc - trC~ belle pl1111uo on urgent fln&m('nt. l'OtlOUlllt'I ct. ciHIO. 121. Lo Jugllmont. de P i\.~i11 · d'nprl·11 H.npluUil. - Id . 422. La N no des ApOlrl• - hn.ut.-rcliu( on nrgont cisolO. 42:). Joli Coutcnu. - Mni cho en vormcil ci8-016. XV I• 11iCclo. 2 1. Pp: is Eucl10.ri1tique 1'n vormcil rC!XlUl~O. a.voe couvorclo. I /f.2:,. Joli 11crvico pour d ~11ort -. n.gnt6 monWo ~n vcrmoil. F"'..,..A2C\. Joli Pot ti biOro ed vormeil rop01111a(! ot. c1l!lol(I, ·-- -








15. Th e Borghes auctio n cata log ue of 1892, an notated by Ra lph urti s. Lots 37 1- 373 we re bought by Ra lph C urti s (RWC) for Isabel la ard ner. 16. S ketch by Ra lph

urti s on th e ve rso

of fi g. 15

of A sia in 1883- 84 (FIG. 12). In the 1890s, they added Ita lian furnitu re to the roo ms, including a set of pa inted Ro ma n side cha ir that were u ed in the dining roo m (FIG. u) . The light-filled Music Room was redecorated a nd fill d with a va riety

f Venetia n furniture, much of it n w

in the Gardner Museum 14. hair from the Pa lazzo Borghese, Rome, ca. 177 3 ( at. 114)

whatev r intim ate associat io n she co uld and

a type he employed aga in in several ga llerie of


h r mu seum .

GREEN H I LL 22. Ca rt er 1925, p. 175. 21. Built in 1806 hy Nn1 hanicl Ingersoll of So- In a photograph fro m the late 1890s (FI G. 10), lsalem , G ree n I Jill was purchased hy John L. G ardb Ila Ga rdner play fu lly stands atop a pla nter. She ner, Sr., Jack\ fath er, in 1842. Jack and Isahell a () f

ctlch suirln1cr m


hnu:-.c in

Beve rl y, M.hsachu:-.l:rt s, north of Boston .

24., cc C hong 2009, pp. 21-26. 25.


n G tuJncr in Ve nice, sec Boston 2004, in ..

elud ing McCauley 2004 '1nd C hong 2004. Jack G ardner\ JLH y for 1892 cnrrics the nni c: "Pnid rent of P,d,rzzo !1arharo (amount hxcd hy TY1 y .. , c\f) ," 1<1tal1ng £.700. 26. Enid J..1ya rd ,\i"r y, 19 Scp1cmhcr 1897; Brit· ish Lihrn ry, London lwww.hmwninggl1id l!.orgJ.

Lady l...a y:ud changed her vicw

t) f

G ardner and

pnid a l·rnppy vi"iir to G ree n I !il l on 4 Sc pt cff1hcr 190 1 1ih1d.I: "She was most curiously cl rid in ~'

13). Isa bella a l o

t h e new loca tion

person a li ty, transported t

obliterated wh at mu t be left be hind."

also spent p~trr

(FI G.

added a hooded fir place of French G othic tyle,

eem to b - a statue on a ped

ta l, a fi xture in a


Isabella a nd Jack Ga rdner were lovers of Venice and they bega n to collect ighteenth-century furniture made in the city. When they first v isited

ga rden , which he often was. H er first majo r en-

in i 884, t hey were h.own a ro und by friend s fro m

deavo rs in ga rdening took place at G re n Hill , a

Bost n, Da niel a nd Ariana C ur t is, owners of the

ra mbling estate in Brooklin - that Jack had inher-

upper fl oors of the Palazzo Barba ro on the Grand

ited fro m hi s parents in 1884

(F 1G.


9 ).

he un-

a nal. The C urtise ' son Ralph, a n aspiring

derstood that Ita lian ga rden wer outdoor roo ms

pa inter, sh ared lsab Ila's love of a rt and antiques.

that ex t -nded and enriched a vi lla li ke G re n

After this initiation, the Gardners returned every


he had vi ited numero us Ita lia n ga rd ns

other y ar to Venice, usua lly settling in at th

and created h r own ve r ion with ymm trica l

Pa lazzo Barba ro fi r severa l months; Jack was even

adorn d with Ro ma n sculpture a nd

:-.of! whirc dinging gn rrncnt a son of n1nrnin g

wa lkway

wrnppcr rrim1T1 ed with Ince ... and her (lnly ~) f..

a rchit ctural frag ments. Her Japa n se ga rden

allowed to et the r nt.25 Isabella created a lively sa lo n fill d with

nnmcnh we re ) row s of immcnM:" pea r\ , which

~ at ured iri s b ds, bonsa i trees, and a tea house

writers, a rtists, a nd musicians, including Henry

WL'r1.· lightl y f.l . , lcnL'd round her ncl.k. O n . . cc-

mg . , tr.rn gL' f>• . 1ppn.l~h.: h she i.: nmc


meet u.., and

cxll.11mcd lnudl y on . . cc ing me. She rnok u.., up l l) look at her wn tcr g:Hde n lrorn which ... he :-.:ud ~he

h,1d Jll "t bee n W:l!Lhing the :-tll1M.:' L Then mns1 kmdl y . , hL' £llOk us mt o the dilfrr.:nr fl ower g:m.l cn.., 1n wh1d'\ ;-t rc arra nged h ali ~rn . . rn tu<H y with gr1.·cn h1K kgmunds .u1d npproad"'l cd rh rn' \t ,1\1 1111


overlooking a pond with a n orn am nta l bridge.


James, Anders Zorn, Joseph Lindo n

mith, An-

A glazed conservatory was bu il t to h Ip bring lush

to nio Ma ncini , Violet Page t (Vernon Lee ), a nd

gree nery and fl owers into th house.

Berna rd Berenson. Isabel la had her detracto rs;

The int rior of with the

r en Hill we re deco rat d


haught y En id Laya rd (wi~ of the diplomat

ilks and Japa n - e sc r ens that

ir Henry Laya rd) de ri bed her as "a rich, rath r

ardners had bough t on their year-long to ur

vu lga r a nd v ry pla in , Am rica n." 26 Lady Laya rd


17. Mu si Room at 152 Beacon t ree t, late 1890>, with ch a ir> fro m th e Pa lazzo Borgh ese. Deni ' Mi ll er Bunker's hrysanthem11ms h a ng> on t he back wa ll. 18. Musi Room at 152 Beacon trec t with the 'ettee maJ e by a rrcr in Ve nice nex t to a ca,,>one (cat. 36) a nJ A nJers Zorn's po rt ra it of b abe ll a Ga rJn cr in Ve ni ce

later softened her opinio n, perhaps becau e the

Lo ring: "There wa nothing in pa rticular abo ut

Laya rd

and Isabella sha red a pas ion fo r col-

them, but th y we re good o ld cha ir a nd it is un-

lecting. Henry Laya rd had fo rmed a n exce llent

usua l to find so la rge a lo t at a time." 12 Th cha irs

collection of nort h rn Ita lia n pa inting (now in

were de-acce sioned by the Museum f Fine A rt

t he Nat iona l G a llery, Lond n), which wa hung

in th 1950s wh n they had lo t the ir u efulne s

on red, yellow, a nd green ilks in the

o r appea l.



This wa surely o n of the mod l ~ r the Ga rdn r Museum : a G oth ic Venet ian pa lace fi lled with Rena issa nce pictures hu ng on bri ll ia nt da mas ks.27 The majorit y of t he furn it ure in the Ga rdner

TURN ING POINT: THE B RG HESE HAIR At the death of her fa ther in 1891, Isabella Ga rdner inherited the resources, approx imately $ 1.8

Museum is Venet ian and was bought in Venice.

m ill io n, to beco m a serio u a rt co llector. 11


27. No photograph ' a rc know n <>f the Laya rd>'

Over the course of t heir vi its, t he G ard ners

concentrated o n o ld mas t r pa intings a nd soon

hy Zina Hulto n aro unJ 1900; C hong 2004,

became fam iliar wit h the elabo rate lacquered

scored uccesses at auction : a Virgin and

furnit ure st ill to be een in palazz i. Da n iel a nd


attributed to Filippo Lipp i, a pa nel by Da nte

in te ri or-., bu t the .., tlk hanging.., we re Jcsc rtbcJ

pp. 11 6-17. 28. Da niel C um ' de,cn beJ a v1"t

to the Pa lazzo M oro-. in1 afrcr ol:'ica1111 ng a pt:rm1t m

Aria na C urtis are likely to have po int d out the

Gabriel Ros etti , a nd mo t rema rka bly, Joh anne

importa nce of the ca rved and pa inted paneli ng in

Verm er's The

the Pa lazzo Morosini th at was later purchased fo r the mu seum (CAT. 52) .28 evera l other importa nt

H er acq ui ition s of furni ture were no less bold.

2000 lire. Fro m Mo" c Dall,1 Torre: pr>e-d1eu,

In A pril r892, at the auction of the cont nt of

200 lire; ca binet , 250 lire. Jac k Gardner\ J 1-

piece of fu rni t ure made their way to Bo ton wit h

the Pa lazzo Bo rghe e in Rome, Ga rdn r bo ught

ar\'. 1890. 30. Jac k Ga rJner\ cha ry, 1892, record' pay-

the help of the C urti s fam ily ( ATS. 35, 1J4, 143).

seven gilded a nd pa inted cha ir fo r 7350 lire, or

ment fo r Isabell a: on 28 Jul y, half of 420 lire,

As t heir knowledge of Ven ice expa nded, the

about $ 1400 (FIG. 14). Th e mag nific nt obj ects

wit h t he remainJe r pa id on I Octoher. The

on cert.14

1883; Lingner 2004, p. 59. 29. From

on-.1glio R1cclwn1 : tour mirror.., with

candelahra, 880 lire; two hrome ca nddahra,

pa1nt1ngs alone co..,t 50 !in.~ eac h. In ... e rtem.-

Gardners beca me more ophi st icated buyer . Ear-

a re a rguably her fine t piece of furniture. Her

her Jack

ly on t hey went home with jew lry, silk, lace , and

d o e fri end , t he art ist Ra lph

Tdw n fo r F. P. Ma"m fo r 350 lire. cc Bowm

a few pri nts. By 1890, their souven ir incl uded ex-

h alf, tho ugh a ske tch in hi s copy of the catalogue

pensive mirrors, la nterns, a prie-dieu, a nd a cabi-

indicates that a prett y woman d ist rac ted h im

urtis, bid on her be-

net. 29 In 1892, I abella G a rd ner comm issio ned a

in t he auct ion roo m fo r a fe w m inutes (F IG. I6 ).

desk with seven pa intings fr m Paul Tilton, a n

The th irteen ch a irs in the set were sold in ix

America n pa inter living in Ven ice, fro m whom

lot , Robert

they h ad bought a la ndscape a few year ea rlier.


Jack Ga rdner took a n av id interest in Vene-

C urtis th

raw hay buying the first six cha irs,

nex t seven. After the auction, C raw-

shay tried to get t he cha irs h had lost during the

co m rnb '.'! 10 n eJ

another tabk from

2004, p. 263, fo r reproduction' of the pai nting' bought from T ilw n. J I. Jac k Ga rdner bought "24 old Ve netia n c hair' with S pa n" h lea ther" fo r 2400 lire from A lc,,a nd ro lerle 111 Jul y 1892; Jac k Ga rdner\ Jiar y 1892. The gift I ' recorJeJ 1n Tru stee.< of the Mu seum of Fine Am, Eighreenth Anntwl Re/>Ort (Bo,rnn, 1894) , p. 44. 32. Ga rJnc r to C ha rles Lonng, 10 May 189 3; archives, Museum o( Fine A rc ~, Bo..,ton.

33. Mc aulc y 2004, p. 21, ba,cd o n c'mnate

f pa int-

bidd ing. I abella seem to have bee n unce rta in

ings, which he left to Isabella a nd her advisors

abo ut whether to keep the chairs. Ra lph wro te to

like Berna rd Berenson . In 1892, Jack bought a set

Isabella, "W h at of the chairs? Robert Crawshay

34. The pa intings by L1pp1 (now attnbuteJ

of twenty-four Venetian ch airs fo r the Museum

is still more t han willing, if they fa ll below yo ur

to Pe . . d l111n) and Ros..,eltl were bought at the

of Fine A rts, where he was treasurer. They were

expectat ions a nd approva l." 15 Fi na lly, the cha irs

Vermeer's painti ng wa ... acqu 1n.::J at the Paris

upho lstered in Spanish leather and described as

along with 96 bottles of Ruffi no chia nti were

auction of t he collcc t1on of Theoph de Tho n:

dating fro m the sixteenth or eventeenth cen-

shi pped to Venice, where the Ga rd ners were stay-

in Dece mber 1892. 35. Ralph ur t", Pa m , to l,ahclla Ga rdne r, 21

tur y.31Jack wrote to the museum d ir ctor, C h arle

ing as u ual at the Pa lazzo Ba rba ro. T he dea ler

June I 1892 1.

tian furni t ure, unlike th

acqut m o n

of fin a ncial record>. Ca rter 1925, p. 121,>tatcd tha t l,a bdla in he rited about $2.7 million.

Frederic k Leyla nd auctio n, London, May 1892.


Gardner Style

have asked me about their hea lth and h appiness Antonio Ca rrer began restored by remov ing the - and I lea rn with rea l joy t hat they escaped the upholstery pads that had been added to the seats baggage smasher." 43 C urtis was referring to the and backs (see cat. 114) . Isabella Gardner at first Museum of Fine A rts, but the joke wo uld soon only wanted six chairs - seven being an odd number fo r a set - and perhaps Ralph C urtis wanted be superseded by Gardner's personal museum. to keep one for himself. Gard ner paid fo r only Other friends recognized Ga rdner's growing six chairs in April 1892, with the last one being 36

bought from Ralph only in October. Isabella proudly showed off t he chairs to Henry James, a guest that summer. James wrote: "the little lady is of an energy ! She showed me yes-

importance as patron. Anders Zorn caricatured her as a Madonna of C harity, supporting babes representing Music and Pa inting. 44 Henry James saw her role at the Palazzo Barbaro a a prelude to a future endeavor, and used her visit to the

terday, at Can er's her seven glor ious chair (the loveliest I ever saw); but they are not a symbol of

World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 as an excuse for some teas ing: "I fi gure you somehow

her attitude - she never sits down." 37 Back home in Boston, Isabella placed the

- strange as is the association of ideas - at the remarkable C hicago - with a 'building' - an in-

chairs in the Music Room (FIG. 17) , where they could be seen during recitals given by such celebrities as the pianist lgnacy Jan Paderewski and the tenor Jea n de Reszke.38 A gossip column in the Boston Daily G lobe reported:

finitely more barbaro us Barbaro - all to your elf. Won't there be the Federal buildings, and the States buildings, and then, in a category by itself, Mrs. Jack's building?"45 Although the auction catalogue of 1892 was correct in ascribing the Borghese chairs to the

When Paderewski returns to Boston he will, ays Saunterer, give a private perfor mance before Mrs. "Jack" Ga rdner, fo r the neat re-

period of Louis XV (r. 1723-74) , Isabella and Jack Gardner became convinced that the chairs had once belonged to Paul V (pope 1605-21) - thus

muneration of $ moo. Mrs. Ga rdner, being in mourning, has decided that she could not invite any guests, and therefore she will sit along in her white and gold music room

36. Jack Gardner made a deta iled note of this on the invoice: 6 times l050 lire were pa id by check to Ra lph C urtis on 30 A pril l892; the las t l050

while the gifted Pole discourse solemn and appropriate harmonies. This is quite after the fas hion of her majesty of England , except that the latter usually has some attendants nea r as a bodyguard.39

lire was paid by cash on 8 October. Confirmed by notes in Jack Ga rdner's d iary for 1892. 37. James to Aria na C urtis, lO July 1892, written from the Pa lazzo Barba ro; Mamoli Zorzi 1998, p. 122. 38. Carter 1925, pp. 122-23. Boston Da ily G lobe,

28 Februa ry l892, p. 21. 39. Boston Daily Globe, 18 December 189 1, p. 12. 40. Johns 1929, p. 54. Carter l925, p. 123. 4l. Held on 26 Februa ry 1892 at Bumstead Hall ; Boston Daily Globe, 28 Februa ry 1892, p. 2l ; Johns 1929, p. 55. O n the printed progra m, George Santaya na wrote a poem in thanks:

Th e Lwers of George San tayana, book 1, edited by Willia m G. Holzberger (Ca mbridge, Mass., 200 l ), p. 2l. 42. urtis to Ga rdner, 23 Ju ne, Pa ris: "I am so glad you are pleased with the ch airs ... [Carrer] told me he hoped yo u would wa nt him to ma ke a sofa to go with them. but I don't believe you have roo m fo r one in your music room, which

is where I suppose they are going to li ve h appy ever after."

43. 4 March [1 893 I, from Rome. The Boston Daily Globe, 26 March 1893, p. 21, praised Ga rdner's "beautifully appointed mus i c~ roo m ."

44. C hong 2004, p. 107. 45. James to Ga rdner, I May l893, p. 197.

There was in fact one other person at the event, one of Isabella's friends, the pianist C layton Johns, who hid behind a tapestry and then dined with just Paderewski and the G a rdners. 40 Isabella a lso spon ored a more public recital for which the philosopher and novelist George Sa ntayana wrote a poem in appreciation.41 Isabella Gard ner decorated her Music Room with modern pa intings, land scapes by Whistler, figures by Mancini, and her portra it painted by Ander Zorn in Venice in 1894. Gardner commi ssioned Carrer to make a settee to accompany t he Borghese chairs; now lost, it ca n be seen in a photograph of t he Music Room (FI G. 18 ).42 The chairs never fa iled to impress. Ralph C urtis wrote prophetica lly to Isabella Gardner in 1893: "I am so glad to hea r the Borghese cha irs are safe . You should put those in your will fo r the Museum to be kept under gla s. Lots of people

i 9. Drawing Room, i 52 Beacon Street, ca. 1900. Botticelli 's Lucretia hangs above the Sienese cassone (cat. 35 ); at left is Rembrandt's self-portrait a nd in the center, cat. 47.


D 1:\

BAJ.ib , 2



Ciudio : Campo S. Sl\!ln.', 2900 - AbiluioDe: PoDte Villuri, Calle del Cler<>, 29i0

prizing them as examples of Roman Ba roque rather tha n Neoclassica l style. 46 The historia n Th odore Dwight (who had vi ited the Gardner in Venice in 1892 ) observed that Pope Paul V could not h ave owned the chairs.47 But th Ga rd-

Receipt fro m Dino Barozzi, Veni ce, 23 e pte mbe r 1897. Jack Ga rc.lner h as writte n in the discounted priced a nd no ted whi c h ite ms h e would pay fo r (J .L.G. ) a nd whic h l abel la would (I. .G. ), including cats. 7, 57. 20.

ners a rgued furiously a nd Dwight tactfu lly withdrew his comment. ln her published cata logues, Mr . Ga rdner continued to claim t he ch airs were masterpieces of the seventeenth century. To sub tantiate if no t clinch her argument, he purchased a h alberd associated with Paul V directly from the Borghese fa mily, and di played it in the Titia n Room nea r the Borgh e ch airs. 48 R ENA IS ANC E CASSON!

Gardner nex t turn d to the Italia n Rena issa nce. In 1894, he b ught a n impressive gild ed i nese

r:Jrit(J fion.d - Jo~r.Jr ANTlQUITES

/ 路kf.-

r.11. ,/,/ ('(,,. 路' /r

(._./ ~.


/, ,(,/

Rece ipts fro m Dino Barozz i, Septe mbe r 1906, o n e h a wing the price o f cat. 54 as 2 500 lire; the o th e r as 1000 lire 2 1.

35). It cost a me re $ 165, a pittance compa red to the Borghe e chai rs, fo r which he

ca one ( paid



a piece. The acquisition ma rks Gard-


ner's growing inte res t in the Ita li a n Rena i a nce, for in the same y a r, he beca me reacq uainted with Berna rd Berenson (1865-1959). He encouraged her to buy Botticelli 's pa inting Lucretia, a n expensive purchase which established he r a a n a rt collector of international tanding. Moreover, the pa inting is closely connected with her growing interest in furniture because B re nson specifi ca lly de cribed it as a panel detached from a ma rriage chest. 49 Painted ca sone fronts were xception ally de irable in the late nineteenth a nd ea rly twe ntieth centurie

because Briti h

a nd America n co llectors ap preciat d their secula r subj ect .so The gilded ca sone a nd Botticell i' painting were bought a few month apa rt in 1894, and they remained close ly associated as Gardner displayed ( 路'路


them together in the Red Drawing Room of her

19), and later in the mu eum. Displayed open, the chest was filled house on Beacon


(FI G.


with textiles, musica l instruments, a nd other

46. In her "List of things for the Museum"

objects, an arrangement retained in the museum .

drawn up in 1897 (Ga rdner list 1897 ), they

Ga rdner qu ickly expanded her collection of mar-

are described as "7 c hairs that belo nged to

riage che ts and detached pa nel (including a

Boston 1899, Music Room no. l; a nd Ga rdner

magnificent pair of paintings by Peselli no). There are eight such works in the museum today, all but one displayed in sequence from t he Room of Ea rly Ita lian Pa in.tings to the Raphael Room. After the acqu i ition of the Borghe e chairs and the Sienese cassone, there was a pause in Gardner's fu rnitu re buying a

she turned her

attention. (and funds) to old master paintings.

Pope Paul V Bo rghese" a nd simila rl y lisred in cat. 1903, p. 19 (with lacer ed ition;) . 47. Dwight



a rdner, 21 Ja nua ry 1893.

Dwight visited Ve nice 15 to JO June 1892, a nd saw the Ga rdners regula rl y (J ac k G a rdner dia ry, 1892 ); see McCauley 200 , pp. 19-20. 48. Bought in March 1895 for 62 50 lire. The receipt stated that it fo rmerl y belonged to Pope Paul V. Inv. F26n7. 49. Berenson to G a rdner, I A ugust 1894 ; a nother of 23 May 1899. Hadley l 987, pp. 39, l 76. 50. See essay by Hess and

hong 2008.

Gardner Style

When the decision was made to fo rm a museum, Isabella started to purchase objects to decorate the galleries - architectural elements, textiles, and Italian furniture. COLLECTORS OF FURN ITURE ln March of 1897, Isabella Gard ner began to keep a notebook which she titled, "List of th ings for

Government h as persistently hindered and wronged me, since yea rs ago, one of the Government's employed men jumped through my Moroni picture, fo r which, not even an apology! I think it better not to talk about the h arm and hurts done, but l remember t hem all. 54

Museum" - preparation fo r the couple's extended

Sh e even reached out to her a rchrival J. P.

shopping exped ition to Italy in l897. 5l They

Morgan, with whom she otherwise h ad almost

bought vast numbers of columns, balconies, tiles,

no contact: "I h ave all my li fe pa id duties to

and wall fab rics to give historical resonance to

the full on everything I brought to t his co un-

their museum. In the course of thi yea r, the Gard-

try; alth ough it seemed criminal to me that a

ners also acquired most of the museum's furniture .

government should exact duties on works of a rt.

They returned to their beloved Venice, where

Finally the time came, when I could bring no

she acqu ired paneling from t he Palazzo Morosini

more works of a rt in as I could no lon ger pay

along with numerous eighteenth-century tables and ch airs, bought from her favor ite dealers,

duties on them."55 Morgan kept his vast collection in Europe be-

A lessa nd ro C lede, Dino Barozzi, Antonio Car-

cause of duties, but Gard ner could not wait: Jack

rer, Moise Dalla Torre, Consiglio Ricchetti, and

h ad died in 1898 and she rushed to complete the

Domenico Lorenzetti. Jack Gardner carefully tracked the hundreds

museum. When the American duty was finally lifted in 1909, Morgan brought his collection to

of transaction s. After Isabella ca me into her

New York, but he experienced it only for a short

inherita nce, h e noted on each receipt whose ac路

time at his library and at the Metropolitan Mu-

count was ch arged fo r which item: we see the frequent annotation , "Paid fo r with Mrs. G's

seum of Art, fo r he died soon afterwards in 1913. Gardner's case was taken up in the press.

money" (FIG. 20 ). Jack saved all of the documents

Harper's Weekly wrote, "th ere is no clause more

connected with the ex tended process of bargain-

absurd and foo lish tha n that which imposes

ing, pay ment, and shipment. In the late 1890s

heavy duties on old pictures ... Mrs. Ga rdner

and first decade of the 1900 , the heavy tariff

seems not herself to h ave done or attempted any

lev ied by the United States on imported works

smuggling, but she could eas ily contrive a case

of a rt encouraged Isabella Ga rdner's agents to

that would put h er in a position to become a

produce fa lse invo ices showing lower values in order to reduce ch arges. 52 Gardner specifically

ma rtyr to the cause of ta riff reform ." 57 The ta riff

instructed dealers to prepare documents show-

Gardner, like many other collectors, took every

ing lower prices (see cats. 26, 129) , a nd stamped

step to evade it.


may h ave been unjust, but t here is no doubt that

receipts h ave different prices fo r th e sa me pieces of furniture (FIG. 21) . American customs officials cared little about

INSTALLATION If Willa rd Sea rs provided Isabella Ga rdner with

such low-va lue items, but in 1908, they seized Isabella's fresco by Piero della Francesca in C hicago. Accused of smuggling the painting to avoid duty,

a museum bui lding, the decoration and a rrange-

admitted only fo r brief glimpses while the mu-

52. The Dingley Tariff was in effect betwee n

Gardner was ch arged $150,000 in tariffs and fines. 53 Distraught as she was at the lost fund s that could h ave been used to expa nd the collection,

1897 and 1909. 53. Carter 1925, pp. 230 _31; S mith 1962 , pp. 164-65; Hadley 1987, pp. 424-25.

Ga rdner was even more upset th at her noble aims for the museum had been rejected.

51. Gardner list 1897, bearing dates 25 March 1897 and 26 December 1898.

54. Ga rdner to her acco untant, Henry Swift, 23 October 1908. 55. G a rdner to Morga n, 5 December 1908. Mor路 gan Libra ry and Museum, New York [M A 2405 ]. 56 . O n Morgan a nd the Metropolitan , see the new findin gs of Gennari路 an tori 2010. 57. Harper's Weekly, 8 August 1908, p. 5

ment of the ga lleries were entirely h er creation. Sh e h ad no advisor and even close friend s were seum was being set up. To prepa re fo r the installation of the galleries, G ardner made lists of objects to be removed from her h omes a nd addition al lists fo r each ga llery. The lists fo r the Long Ga llery and the "Gothic and Byzantine

l am ash amed of the United States Gov.em ment. With all the might and understand ing the Lord h as given me, l h ave done a thing,

Room" show that certain paintings were consid-

unique absolutely, fo r this country: The U.S.

h and survives.

ered and rejected (FIGS . on pp. 230, 278). ln add ition, a ro ugh diagram of one room in G ardner's

C hong

Fro m the tart, keen observers rea li zed that

visitors wou ld sit a nd view them up close. In ix

Fenway Cou rt was unlike a ny other museum,

places, paintings h ave been bracketed to supports

and indeed did not especia lly resemb le even

directly behind a table, so that they appea r to be

the private museums of Europe, such as the

part of the furniture . he placed a ch air in front

Wallace Collect ion in London or the Mu ee

of each table. For the most part, these a re small

Jacquemart-Andre in Pa ri s. Sy lve ter Ba xter in

works of great significa nce to Gardner - paint-

1903 wrote that the Gard ner Mu eum was es-

ings by Raphael, Vermeer, Giotto, a nd attributed

sentially Ita lia n, "Yet it is like no one building

to Giorgione (see figs. on pp. 240, 295 ).62 This

that ever stood, either in Italy or el ewhere. It is

arra ngement allowed paintings to be set at right

a beautiful

compos ite." 58

The museum's a rrange-

ment, according to Priscill a Leon a rd , gives the "impression of a palace, not a mu eum" with "a n inhabited look despite its spaciousnes ."


a ngl s to the windows in order to catch the be t light, since there was no electricity in the ga lleries when the mu eum opened.

Bax ter

agreed: "With all its palatial qua lity, Fenway


Court seems em inently a home, made to be lived

Isabella Gardner was fa mous fo r befriending

in rather th a n to be shown, seen, a nd admired .

a rtists, writers, a nd musicians. Another set of

It h as the h ome like attribute that expresses the person who sh aped it making."


This domestic intimacy is la rgely the result of

intimates were designers a nd interior decorators - profession that slowly emerged in the later nineteenth century. The ri e of upper-middle-

the insta llation of furniture and decorative ob-


jects, which Gardner h ad perfected in her home .

in home decoration led to th

domesticity and the accompa nying interest publicati n of

"The pictures grouped in each room, too h armo-

numerous guidebook . The British critic C h arles

ni ze with each other a nd with their background

Eastlake wrote Hints on Household Taste in Fur-

of silk or tapestry, and t he ch airs and cabinets,

niture, U/Jholstery, and O ther Details (London,

desks and tables, each a rare bit of furniture by

1868 ) as a practica l ma nual fo r putting th Arts

itself, are all at h ome in the genera l de ign." 61

a nd C rafts ae thetic into middle-class homes. 61 In

Nonetheless, the grander and more mu eum-

a simila r vein, C la rence

ook wrote a serie of

like spaces of Fenway Court necessitated new

article abo ut home furni shing for Scribner's Mag-

strategies of furniture display. To organize the e

chairs and tables were mea nt to be placed aga inst

azine wh ich were collected in 1878 as The House Beautiful, Essays on Beds and Tables, Stools and Candlesticks. Isabella Gardner succumbed to thi trend a he owned a copy of The Art of Decora-

walls and were therefore unfinished on the back.

tion (London, 1881) by Mrs. H . R. Haweis, which

Even the superb chairs made for Ma rca nton io

stressed practica lity and h armoniou proportion s.

14) are rather crudely finished on

But uch guides h ad little influence on Gardner's

the reverse. Gardner dev ised the solution of putting ch airs a nd tables back to back in t he center

highly persona l style. It would appear that Isabella was drawn to

of a ga llery. In t he Room of Early Italian Paintings,

the creative spirit of decorators, as she was to

Roman eighteenth-century chair abut Victorian

artists, but was less interested in their prescrip-

interiors, Gardner often created groups of furniture in t he middle of rooms. Ma ny of her finest



pp. 88-89). The Borghese chairs

tions on taste a nd style. One such designer was

are placed against N eapolita n wa ll tables in the Titian Room - a n arrangement that suggests

H arold Peto (1854- 1933) , introduced to Gardner by Henry James, who went to stay at Green Hill

imaginary walls in the middle of the room. And

in 1887. He described his visit:


(FIG .

two desks were set back to back around a panel that h olds two paintings; the desks form a kind of

Mrs G with th

mo t wonderful p a rls on

predella fo r works by Bermejo and the workshop

that mortal ver saw, a string ro und her neck

of Velazquez

and one ro und her wai t, the latter with a

(FIG .


17J) .

Thus these ga lleries

contain scu lptu ra l agglomerat ion s of furniture -

pendant pigeons blood ruby in front with

groups of objects that structure the rooms. Furniture enha nced the view ing of paintings.

a gra nd pearl from that. Each pea rl of the string as big as a marrow fat pea! I got her to

Gardner frequently placed paintings on small

bring down some more jewels after as I a m

tables, perhaps origin ally with the intent that

fond of seeing such beauties. Among others


5 . Bax ter I904, p. 362. 59. Leona rd 1903, p. 661.

60. Baxter 1904, p. 382. 61. Leonard 190 , p. 661. 62. The paint ings a re by Ba rtolo meo Bu lganm (Ea rl y Italia n Room) ; Raphael's Deposition (Raphael Room) ; Berme10 a nd Velazquez workshop (Tapestry Room) ; Flinck a nd Ve rmeer (Dutch Room); Giorgione. now Bellin i workshop (Titia n Room) ; attributed co Uccello (Long G allery. a ltho ugh this lac ks a chair) ; Giotto a nd Simone Ma rtini (Gothic Room) .

63. For British interior decorauon in the nineteenth century, see ohen 2006.

Gardner Style

diamonds . . . She

a decade later. After the opening of the museum,

amused herself by th rowing them across

Ga rdner befriended the interior designer Henry

t he room to me to ca tch , as she sa id they

Museum in designing Beauport, his house north


sparkled better when flying thro ugh the air, t han at any other time. I was relieved when she stopped as I

"Itali an Gothic C hest" from Wh arton and Cod man, The Decorati on of Houses 22 .

was afraid of missing them. She is a really extraordinary woman, does everyth ing that mortal can, has read everyth ing, knows everyone, has great taste and is withal extraord inarily kind and puts herself to no end of trouble fo r you.64

(18 97)

Gardner took Peto to see houses and collections in Boston. In 1891, she commiss ioned him to make a beautiful altar screen for the C hurch of the Advent.65 Arou nd this time, Gard ner considered purchasing one of the most influential interiors of the per iod, Whistler's Peacock Room of 1876-77. She tried to arrange a commission fo r Whistler to do murals fo r the Boston Public Library, but this



67. C hong 2009, pp. 42-43. Sa rgent wro te to Whistler, I Nove mber [1 895), that Ga rdner was considering the Peacock Room for a la rge h all in the li brary. Because of this, Whistler ca lled her [3 Nove mber 1895 ), "a most da ngerous busy body."

68. Ha rris 2007, p. 203. O n Sleeper and Ga rdner, see Carter 1925, pp. 226-29; Sha nd-Tucci 1997, pp. 245-46, 276. 69. Rybczy nski and O lin 2007, pp. 26-28, 57, 65. Ha rwood 1985, pp. 7-8, asse rts th at Ga rdner recommended C h alfin to Ja mes Deering, but there is no evidence fo r this. O n Ga rdner and C h a lfin, also see Hadley 1987, pp. 354-55.

70. Wha rton to Sara lselin , l May [1 903 ]; tra nscription courtesy of Michael Bliss; Ga rdner cat.

2003, p. xvi.

tive style also exerted a strong influence on Pau l C halfin, the designer of Vizcaya , James Deering's house in Miami.69 C halfin was a curator at the Museum of Fine A rts from 1903 to 1905, when he beca me a fr iend of Ga rdner. Based on Gardner's exa mple, C halfin assembled a large collection of Italian furniture fo r Vizcaya, which was completed in 1916. Edith Wharton (1862-1937) and Isabella Gardner were friends or, more correctly, had many friends in common, like Henry James and Bernard Berenson. Wharton visited the Ga rdner Mu seum shortly after it opened and was du ly impressed with the "Palazzo Gardner," as she called it. "Her collection is marvelous, and looks beautifu lly in its new setting, but a spirit of opposition ro used in me when I am told 'there is nothing li ke it in Europe' especially when it is applied to houses." 70 Edith Wharton and the architect

was ca nceled because of lack of fund s. 66 In 1895, John Sargent told her the Peacock Room was fo r sa le, and she attempted to bu y it for the library, then under construction.67 Nothing came of the idea, and the room was bought by C harles Freer

The book starts off on common ground by praising the architectural clarity of the Italian Renaissance. French Gothic chairs and an Italian

23. Wi lli am Merritt C hase's studio on West 10th Street, New York., ca. r88o. Photograph 65. Lingner 2001, p. 33, fi g. I 2. 66. Sa rgent to Ga rdner, 2 Nove mber 11895]. by George C. Cox. Whistler s correspondence ca n be found ac: Archi ves of A merica n Art, Washi ngton www.whistler.a tesy of A nn Uppington. Henr y James's letter

of Boston (although one writer has mistakenly reversed this relationship) .68 Ga rdner's decora-

Ogden Codman Jr. had written The Decoration of Houses in 1897, a commentary on inter ior design which in many respects is the antithesis of Isabella Gardner's style.

64. Harold Peto diary, November 1887; courto Ga rdner is dated 20 October 1887; Ma moli Zorzi 2009, pp. 137-38.

leeper, who was directly inspired by the Gardner

C liong

24 . Willi<irn Merritt

ha,c, A Corner of

My 'wdio, 1890,. O il on rn nva,. Fine Art' MuM:um; o f an Fran c i ~co

25. Raphad Room of the GarJncr Mu,cum

ca one a re illu trat d in t he b ok (F IG. 22 ), but

new acq uisitio ns,

the writer re erved their highest prai e for the

furniture up to he r death. Moreover,

interesting souvenirs, aml ardne r

spacio u ness a nd simplic ity of Fr nch class ica l

e chewed nea rl y a ll as ociation

styles of the late eighteenth centur y. They at-

Neoclassici m and the Bea ux-A rts style , prefer-

tacked bric-a-brac a nd wa lls crowd d with pic-

ring in tead the drama, energy, and somet imes

tures: "Decorat r know how much the simplicity

superfic ia l effects of Ita lia n furniture.

with French

a nd dignity of a good room a re dimini shed by

I abella Ga rdner was a do er friend of an-

crowd ing ' it with useless trifles ... it is surprising

o ther popular a rbite r of ta ste, Elsie de Wolfe

to note how the remova l of a n acc umulat io n of

(1 865-1950 ), the actress turned de igner. This

knick-knacks will free the a rchitectural lines a nd

relat ionship is surprising because the pl ayful ,

restore the furniture to its rightful relatio n with

modern style associated with de Wo lfe see ms so

the wall." 71 N othing cou ld be further fro m the

dista nt fro m

instincts of I abella Gardner, who never entirely

a rdner's muse um . De Wo lfe, how-

ver, enthusias tica lly praised Fenway

o urt in her

fre d herself fro m a Victorian love of abundance ,

1913 book, no ting in particular the fin e staircase.

even as he evoked the rich layering of Ita lian

"This ho use is, by the way, the fin st thing of its

palazz i. S he continued to fill her mu seum with


kind in America." 72

71 . Whuton and Codman 1897, p. IH'i. 72. De Wolfe 191), p. Ill.

Gardner Style

In 1890, Ga rd ner and de Wo lfe went together to see the Wa llace Co llection in London .73 At that time, the ho u e preserved the a rra ngement created by S ir Rich ard Wallace aro und 1875, and was still the property of his widow. The persona l in tallation of such an important private co llect io n of pa intings and furniture mu st h ave h ad tremendous effect on Gard ner, who was just abo ut to embark o n her own museum-making project. A RTIST STU OlOS

Far mo re impo rta nt fo r G ardner's style than decora to rs were pa inters. The tudios of her a rtist friend s played an impo rta nt role in the development of the Ga rdner Mu eum.74 Comfo rting and exotic, the work spaces of socie ty portra itists in particula r were filled with art obj ects that could be used as props. O ne of the most sumptuous wa the studio of William Merritt C h ase (1849- 1916) on West rnth

treet in Manhatta n. A sian a rt,

tex tiles, weapons, and costume mingled with the 73.

Hertfo rd House (Wa llace Collection) , guestbook entr y ~ r June 18, 1890: M rs. John L. G a re.Iner, Elsie Anderson <le Wolfe, Eli za-

beth Ma rbur y, a nd Florence Temple Griswold. G a re.In er returnee.I on 23 Ju ly 1897 with Bern ard Berenson and G ustave Dreyfu s.

artist's own work to ma ke a picturesque ubj ect in its own right ( FIGS. 23 , 2 4 ) . The mi x of objects

26. Jo hn . Sa rgem , Carmencita, 1889. O il o n canvas. Musee d'Orsay, Pa ri s

from different periods a nd cultures resembles Ga rdner's own mu eum, and bo th G a rdner and hase were fond of Ita lia n furniture, Renais-

74. N eil Ha rris, lectu re at the G a rdn er Museum ,

sa nce cassoni in pa rticular. These chests could

other obj ects. 78 The taste for Ita lia n Rena is a nce

April 2000. This section is based on

play different roles as decoration, seating, support,

furniture struck the French pa inter Jacques-Em ile


2007. 75. When cat. 35 was in t he Red Drnw ing of

or even repositories fo r o ther treasures - a strat-

Blanche a peculiarly American. On visiting Sar-

Beacon Street, Ga rdner described it as " I gilt

egy employed at Beaco n Street a nd the museum ,

gent's studio, he noticed "among o ther things, Flo-

cassone with musica l instr ume nt in it" (Gard ~

ner list 1897) ; the guita r rema ins in it. 76. Sa rge nt to Ga re.In er [l ate March 18901: "I wi ll contribute wine a nd supper, and the Carmencita with two guitars wil l cos t you $120 wh ich is her price en ville." A ro und the same

where G ardner frequently left her cassoni open

rentine cassoni, a bronze by G emito, mirrors and

to revea l tex tiles and mu sical instruments and ).75 19 25

furniture of the six teenth and seventeenth centu-


ries, of the tas te of Americans who decorate their

Although Isabella never acquired any pa intings by hase, she was very fami liar with his stu-

villas in Tusca ny and C apri."79

dio. In 1890, Isabella G ardner a nd John Sa rgent a rra nged a private perfo rma nce at the studio of a Spanish dancer named Ca rmencita, who was

worked in G ardner's newly completed museum ,

then taking New York by sto rm.76 Both Sa rgent and C ha e were then pa inting her (FIG. 26;

tra its in the roo m. In the portrait of Mrs. Fiske Wa rren and her daughter, gilded angels and a Vir-

ca n be seen in a photograph of ca. 1899 of the

C h ase's painting is in the Metropo litan Museum

gin and C hild in plaster from Ghiberti's workshop

Bo ud oir at 152 Beacon St.

of A rt, New York) and Sa rgent invited G ardner

ca n be seen (fig. 27). The two women are seated

to hi own studio to see the portrait in progress. 77

on one of Isabella's seventeenth-century chairs

The stage-managing of Spa nish da nce is echoed in Ga rdner's evocati ve installation of Sa rgent's

(cat. 150). Isabella Gardner was a good friend

t ime Ca rmenc ita danced in J. Ca rroll Beckwit h'> studio, as eight photograp hs record {O tto Bache r pape rs, A rc h ives of Ame ri ca n Art: www. .

77. O rmonc.I anc.I Kilmurra y 1998, vo l. 2, nos. 234-37. Besic.les the ma in portra it (fig. 26) , there sur vive severa l dra wings, a wate rcolor, a nd two sma ller pa int1ngs of the <la ncer by Sarge nt. G ardne r owned a print o f Sa rgent's paintin gi tt

78. For photographs of Sargent's stuc.lio and a discuss io n of hi s studio prop~, see Ormo nd and

Kil murra y 1998, vol. 2, pp. xx i-xx v.

79. 131 anche 1928, p. 62, based on a visit to Sa rge nt around 1900. 80. John Templeman Coolidge sent one of the >napshots to the artist Cecilia Bea ux wtth the in>c ription : "Mr" Bea ux - J. S. Sa rge nt in Mr" Ga r<lncr's Gothic Room painting po rtrait of Mrs. Fiske Wa rren . A pnl 11 , 1903. J. T. c. Sr." This sugges ts t hat he may he the photographer;

ea rlier depiction of a Spa nish da ncer, El]aleo. Set behind a proscenium arch and sur ro unded by artefacts associated with Islamic S pain, the painting is a perpetual perfo rmance. Gardner a lso frequented Sa rgent's tudio in

he was certaml y pre~e nt. A rc hi ves o f Am e rica n

An, Cecilia Bea ux papm, box 3, fo lc.ler 41 laaa.] .

London, a cornucopia filled not o nl y with his own wo rks but also old ma ter painting , tex tiles, and

It is therefore no coincidence that Sa rgent using the G o thic Room as a temporary studio. In March and Apri l 1903 , he painted several por-

of Gretchen Wa rren and the sittings quickly beca me socia l occas ions as G a rdner dropped in to see Sa rgent at work. Snapshots taken by John Templeman Coo lidge (or possibly by G ardner herself) show Sa rgent at work on the portrait or mugg ing for the camera (fig. 2 8 ) .~ 0 Sa rgent pa inted other friends of Gardner, including a portra it of the composer Charles Loeffler. It was

28. Photograph, probably by J. Templeman oolidge, of John . Sa rgenr painting in the G othic Room, 11 Apri l 1903

Gretch en Osgood Warren and her Daughter Rachel, 1903 . O il on canvas. Museum of Fine

27. John S. Sa rgenr,

Arts, Boston

presented to Gardner on her birthday, April 14,

eclectic range of objects, but b cau e of t heir

when Loeffler's composition Pagan Poem was per-

multiple functions a


of display, work,

formed for the fir t time, at the mu seum . The por-

performance, a nd enterta inment. A nd just as

trait now ha ngs in the Yellow Room, a memory of

studios were often re-a rranged, the ga lleries of

the mingling of a rt, music, and perfo rma nce.

the Ga rdner Mu seum give t he illusion of being consta ntly cha nged a nd re-decorated. Loosely

Isabella Gardner is still sometimes seen as depen-

draped textiles, cas ually placed objects (without

dent on advisors, especially Bernard Beren son,

vitrines), chairs that could be easily moved, and

but de pite his role in finding paintings for her

chests left open : these a re invitations to construct

- and she h ad other friend

like Ralph C urtis,

Joseph Lindon Smith, a nd Ander Zorn to help -

individu al mea ning. Nonethele s, there is a tension between the

the Italia n furniture was acquired almost entirely

private and public worlds at the Gard ner Museum.

on her own. Moreover, the decoration of the

Some of the roo ms have a strong domestic atmo-

museum was Isabella's personal creation. Inspira-

sphere, as if et up for a reception or for a small tea

tion came from many va ried sources. The private

party. And indeed , some of the insta llations du-

museums in Europe that may have served as

plicate aspects of 152 Beacon tr et or Green Hill.

models, like the Museo Poldi-Pezzoli, the Musee

But the Gardner Museum wa not Isabe lla' home

Jacquemart-Andre, and the Wallace Collection,

and the roo ms a re new and inventive configura-

are similar in concept and phila nthropic aim , but

tions. The museum never cop ies a ny particula r

are rather different in decor. Some elements are

setting, nor does it look exactly like the places

drawn from the palazzi of Italy, especially from

where Ga rdner lived. Rather, she fa hi oned in-

her beloved Palazzo Ba rbaro in Venice. Isabella

stallations tap into historica l reference ,

Gardner's home on Beacon Street a nd at Green

personal recollection s, and her own sure sense of

Hill were fo rmative steps toward Fenway Court.

de ign. Ga rdner's Italia n furniture i essential to

And h er experience of artists' studios also greatly

all these a sociations, wh th r gra nd or domestic,

impressed Gardner: not only because of their

ostentatious or intim ate, public or private.



In the most genera l terms, the appea l of Italian

built, as fo r their collections and furnishings,

furniture fo r fo reigners is based on some combination of a few essential qualities, especially its

Victorian st yle towards a visual idiom that would

inventive de ign and exotic charm . Examples of

imply a cultural heritage to validate their new

creatively fo rmulated Italian furniture that have ntered British and American museum collection in the pa t few decades include impress ive

social standing. Rather than draw ing upon family

and unu ual examples from the eventeenth, ighteenth, and nineteenth centuries (FIGS. 1-3).

necticut, and Pennsylvan ia), they turned to the

these magnate turned away from the bourgeois

history for thi heritage (most came from humble backgrounds in mall towns in New York, Conimagined seat of culture: Western Europe, espe-

However, the pioneering g neration of collectors in the nineteenth century preferred a different

cially France and Italy. Upper-class clients hired

which, according to one scho lar, was seen to

plundered works of art from their predecessors

architects to design their mansions in a new set of qu alitie , namely an as ociation with travel "America n Renaissa nce" style. One of these archithro ugh the peninsu la and most of all a connec- tects was Stanford White, who audaciously stated tion with an esteemed society: the Renai sance, that, "In the past dominant nations had always

sy mboli ze "the very definition and , to a lesser de- . .. America wa taking the lead ing place among gree, the origin of cu lture." 1 Members of this gen- nations and had therefore, the right to obtain art eration included such astute collectors as Henry wherever she cou ld." 2 Years ea rlier Henry James C lay Frick, ]. P. Morga n, and Peter Widener. More eclectic than most of her peers, Isabella tewart

had expres ed a similar, if less impudent, sentiment in writing, "I think that to be an American is an excellent preparation for culture ... we can

Gardner collected Italian furniture of the eighteenth century as well as the Renais ance. Their interest in art natura lly encompassed

ca n pick and cho e, and assimilate and in short

an intere t in architecture. For the public bui ldings they sponsored and elaborate homes they

(aesthetically etc. ) claim our property wherever we find it." 3

dea l freely with forms of civilization not our ow n,

32 Attributed to Joh ann Paul Schor. S ide tab le, Rome, ca. 1670. Ca rved and gild ed poplar. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. This outl and ish object, completely u eless as a ta ble, must h ave sta rted its life as something else, perhaps the sculptura l orn ament of a larger structure or interior.


I. Paul a FrnJlen, "Pm. ,es,mg rhe past: the m a te~

nal worl<l of the Italian Rcn a1-,sa nce," American Hi>torical Review 103 (1998), p. 84. 2. The American Renaissance, 1876- 1917 (exh. cat., Brooklyn Mu,eum, 1979), p. 15. 3. Leon EJcl, cJ., Henry Jam es Letters (CamhnJgc, Ma'"路 1974) , vol. I, p. 77.

Writing desk, Ven ice , ca. 1760. Pai nted ~nd gi lded wood , gi lded bronze. Minneapoli s Institute of Arts. From outwa rd appea rance, it i h ard to imagine t he function of thi s piece of fu rniture. The top opens upwa rd , the front pane l lowe rs dow n , a nd the sides open o ut to reveal a writing desk a nd drawers: la rge and sma ll , exposed a nd secret. No oth er exa mple of Ve neti a n furni ture ca n compa re to th is ex ubera nt design and lav ish ornament.


3. Fi lippo Pelag io Pa lagi (1775- 1860). Sofa, Bologna, 1842. Mah oga ny veneered with map le a nd mahoga ny. Metropol itan Museum of Art, New York. This sofa combines elements from a variety of sources: the palmettes and Ionic capita ls a re derived from a ncient Greek art, whil e lotus petals a nd li on's-paw feet are inspired by Egyptian motifs. Pa lagi des igned this sofa as part of a suite ordered by Ca rlo Alberto (1798- 1849) , king of Sa rdini a.

Another architect well-versed in the Ameri-

Corsi (the future home of col-

can Renaissance style was Richard Morris Hunt

lector H erbert Hom e, now the

(1827- 1895), who designed one of the most opulent examples for the grandson of Com eliu Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt II. Hunt created

Museo Hom e) from the opera singer Angelica Cata lan i,

The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island , a seven-

Spence described as "perhaps the first in Florence to collect

ty-room Italian Renaissance-style palace inspired by the sixteenth-century villas of Genoa and Turin (FIG. 4) . This Renaissance Revival carried

whose son, Augu st Valabreque,

antique furniture. His flat wa

into the interiors designed by A llard and Sons of

full of Quindicesimo and Seidicesimo fumiture." 6 Spence also worked as an

Paris and the Boston architect Ogden Codman. The appreciation of the Renaissance as a

art restorer, but after 1870 wa mainly active a a dea ler specializing in Renaissa nce objects, paint-

highpoint of civili zation was set into motion by Giorgio Vasari in his Lives of the Most Excellent

ings, and furniture. This professional trajectory from painter, to re torer, to dealer - was com mon

Italian Architects , Painters, and Sculptors from Cimabue to our Times of 1550. In the nineteenth

in the second half of the nineteenth century. The

century, Vasari's concepts and praise of artistic personalities were taken up by historians Jules Michelet and Jacob Burckhardt. More popularly, in what has been ca lled "Vasarian mania," 4 Vasa ri's praise of his country's artistic triumphs was promoted by writers and others, including John Addington Symonds in his 1899 Renais-

in particu lar, comprising wooden objects made for household use, had undergone normal wear and tear as well as more drastic damage. Rather than preserve the o ri ginal condition for historica l authenticity, restorers and dealers sought to make

collector William Blundell Spence in his midnineteenth-century gu idebook, Luoghi celebri di

the newly unified Italy, but five yea rs later the seat

Firenze. Vasari' work continues to be one of the

of government shifted permanently to Rome. Flo-

most important sources for information on Ital-

rentine businesses, including art dealers, suffered from the relocation , but not fo r long. New objects

ian, particularly Tuscan, Renaissa nce art. William Spence (1814-1900) , who spent much of his life in Florence, was one of the most important pioneers in the development of this taste. 5 He began dealing in paintings around 1840. H e later rented an apartment in the Palazzo

Rena issa nce-inspired summer house was designed by Richard Morri s Hunt fo r Cornelius Vanderb ilt ll.

Renaissa nce material appearing on the market was then over four hundred year old ; furniture

these objects more attractive fo r an eager public with new houses to furnish and money to spend . In 1865 Florence replaced Turin as capital of

sance in Italy and the English painter, author, and

4. The Brea kers, Newport . Thi s Ita li an

poured onto the market as wealthy families began selling off works of art considered out of fashion or otherwise out of place in modem Ita ly. Moreover, the contents of sprawling rural estates had to be pared down when families moved to urban


4. Jenny Graham, "Vasarian man ia in the nineteenth century," conference paper at " Re~ inventing the Renaissa nce in the nineteenth century/' Victori a and Albert Museum, Lo n~

don, Septe mbe r 2004. 5. John Fle ming prov ides a n absorbing a nd thorough account of dea lers in mid-nineteenth-century

Ita ly (Fleming



S pe nce and cassoni, see Ca liman 1999; London 2009. 6. Fle ming 1973: part 2 (1 979), p. 498.

etting . Thi liq uidation of obj ect wa further fueled by new inherita nc li mitatio n , the brea kdown of the ag ra ria n econo my o n which landown rs' pro perity was based , and t he rebu ild ing of Florence, spa rk d by it new if fl eting tatu as fir t city. Urba n r newa l included t he razing of ma ny build ing in th city cente r to widen treets a nd t he d islocated popu lati on al o fed the ma rket with a rtwo rks, ell ing off obj ect that we re no longer u efu l or fa hion able. James Jackson Ja rves, the writer, a rt historia n, and collector, describ d Florence a "t he wo rld' capita l o f Bric-a-bracdom" whose art ma rket wa a infi ni te as the coa l mines f Engla nd.7 Severa l of t he most

ign ifi ca nt am ng the

nex t generat ion of dea lers to benefic fro m uch liqu idat ions, and in turn fos ter the ma rket in obj

5. Pa lazzo Davanzati in Flore nce, after Elia Volpi's renovat ions, c~. r9 10. Photograph by Brog i

ts, were bas d in Florence: St fano Bard in i

(1836-1922 ), Herb rt Per y Ho rne (1 864- 1916), and, Elia Volpi (1858-1938 ).8 Like Spence, Ba r-

to Ho rne and Bardi ni - just a few blocks from one

d in i wa tra ined as a pa inter and expert copy-

anot her on either side of Pon te a lle Grazie - both

ist. A lthough his stud y of historica l techniques

passed to the city of Florence after their deat hs

of painting gave him the tools to und rsta nd

and opened to the public as t he Mu eo Horne

the proper context and appearance of a pa r-

and t h Mu eo Bard ini .

t icula r work of art, it a l o made it poss ible fo r him t

r to r w rk fo r the ma rket so that h is

interventio ns wo uld b

na issa nce fo r h im self and t he public , Elia Vo lpi

und tectabl . When he

d id so fo r commercia l ends. Li ke many others,

acqu ired the decon ecrated Florentine church

Vo lpi sta rt d a a painter. He then wo rked fo r

a nd convent of a n G regorio in 1881 to serve as

fifte n yea r a a re torer fo r Ba rd ini . His ta lent

hi art ga llery, he made ure to pla n a stud io fo r

were honed at a t ime when copies of original

7. Van Wyck Brooks, The Dream of Arcadia:

r storatio n a nd reproduct ion .9 W ilhelm Bode of

wo rks of art were req uested to replac the period

American Writers and Artists in Italy, 17601915 (New York, 195 ), pp. 79, 80-84, as c ite<l in Bern J Roeck, Florence 1900: The Quesi for Arcadia (New Haven, 2009 ), p. 151. 8. Among the man y publicatio ns o n their

the Kon iglich

o bjects fam ilies had sold off. U lti mately, he left

cl ient, wrote that, in add it ion to his ski lls as a

to become a dea ler himself. A

restorer, Bard ini ' "pa rticula r ta l nt lay in hi s

a nother importa n t dea ler of t he t ime wro te of

activ it ies, sec: Everett Fahy, Larchivio swrico

bra in ing access to the best Flo r n tine fa m ilies

restorers, "the best end up beco ming art dea lers ...

Mu en in Berl in, Bard ini 's best

Luigi Bell ini ,

fotografico di tefano Bardini: di/>inti, disegni, miniature, siam/>e (Flo rence, 2000), particu-

[such a the

la rl y pp. 5-22; Ferrazza 1994 ; S utton 1985; II Mt1 scw Horne a Firenze, c<l . Licia Bcrtard er al. (Flo ren ce, 1990); Secrest 2004.

pon i] - who were in urgent need of mon y - and

ter to resto re for one's own b nefi t than fo r that of

in ga in ing their tru t ." 10 P r picacious as well as

oth r ." 11

trozz i, To rrigian i, Mozz i, and


because t hey even tua lly under rand th at it's bet-

opportuni t ic and art ist ica lly ta l nted , Bardin i

Volpi was a pa rticula rl y ta len ted en t repreneur.

e<l rl y Itali an 'primit ives' dur ing the 20 th cen.-

was a lso the first dea ler to use photog rap hy a a

In 1904, he acq uired t he mid-fo urteenth-century

tu ry: Valuing art and its co nseq ue nces," )our..

resea rch and documenta ry tool (se cats. 77, 148).



W here H orne reconst ructed the Ita li an Re-

athlccn J-loenigcr, "Th e rci-.torarion of th e

Pa lazzo Dav izz i,

ubsequentl y ca lled Davanzati,

nal of th e American lnstiwte for Conservation 38 (1 999), p. 148. 10. Wilhe lm Bode, " refo no Bardin1," I.:antiqu ariaw: Rivista indi/)endeme 10, nos. 1-2 (J an .-Fch. 1923), p. I. For the relat io nshp be-

art h istori an, a nd a nt iqua ri an who settled in

op ned to the public in 19rn as a "perfect re-

Florene late in li fe. H e a

mb led furn iture, ce-

const ruct ion of a fifteen th-century Florentine

tween Bode anJ Bar<lini, sec Niemeyer C h ini

ra mics, coins, a nd oth r objects to document the

ho use." 12 It was the first private museum in Ita ly

daily li fe of t h Renaissa nce,

to charge an en tra nce fee and it bril liantl y di s-

2009. 11. Lt1i gi Bellini, Ne/ mond o degli amiq11ari (Flore nce, 1950), pp. 40-41. 12. S imo ne Bargcllini, Antiq1wri di ieri (F lorence, 1950), p. 41. A Ith o ugh Wo rlJ War I reduced A merica n trave l to Europe, th e.! roman,

H rbert Ho rne wa an English poet, d igner,

adm ired fo r it

in t he cen ter of Florence, which he rebuilt a nd

ra tiona lism a nd culture. Beca use of hi s li mit d

semin ated and commercia lized the appea l of th

mea ns, Horne a lso worked a a con sulta nt fo r

Flor ntine Rena issa nce

(F IG .

5). There fo llowed

antique dea l rs, priva te co llecto rs, a nd mu eums

a series of auct i ns - the most imp rta nt ta king

t ic des ire rn surrmmd nnc:-idf with th e g rcm

to fund hi s own collecting z a l, and in 189

place in N w York - that created a collect ing

ohjcCt!'I of rhc exa lted past - a desire thm had

entered into an arra ngement with Berna rd Be-

fren zy fo r Ren aissance decora ti ve a rts. Volpi's

ren on to buy and sell work of art. T h pa lazzi

sa le, organ ized by t he A merica n A rt A ociation

and re-created Q uattrocento int riors belonging

in 1916, was mom n to us. Descri bed as "the first

been foJ by the \Xlnrld\ Columb ian Exposition in Chi ca~o. 1891- was o n the rise, at least un, ii i the collapse of the '1ock market in 1929.



successful [sa le] of O ld Masters .. . ever held in America" and bringing in over one million dollars, it comprised more than 1200 lots sold over five sessions, two of which were devoted entirely to decorative arts. 13 A s evidence of the grow ing appreciation fo r the decorative arts, Volpi wa allowed to place a reserve price on the most valu able objects, half of which were chests, cassapanche, tables, and chairs. The Italian government even withdrew three pieces of furniture because of their artistic significance to the nation.14 It turned out that most of Volpi's objects were reproductions of Renaissance originals or heavily restored examples. One wonders whether the Palazzo Davanzati was not simply an elaborate marketing scheme to establish a prestigious provenance for objects acquired recently and cheaply. The market for expensive Italian works of art then developing in America was only possible with the appearance of a new and wealthy population . Banking, mining, industry, and the burgeoning railway system in the second half of the nineteenth century created a group of Americans with unprecedented wealth, many

that embodied good taste, high style, and grand social sta nding. Works of art became objects of desire. Although dealers were happy to help, the collectors themselves - encou raged by favorable changes in taxation, inheritance laws, and trade tariffs - drove the market. As some Italians were ridding themselves of old-fashioned furniture, others were fa lling victim to the Romantic mood of the nineteenth century. Newly popu lar were nostalgic rev iva ls of styles of the past. In particular the Renaissa nce Revival celebrated what was seen as a highpoint of Italy's history and was perfectly suited to the nationa listic pride that resulted from Unification at mid-century. In response, ta lented furniture designers and cabinet-makers, particularly in Tuscany, created inventive va riations on Renaissance fo rms that were as popular outside Italy as within (see cats. 65, 71, 80, 94, 98). Luigi Frullini, Egisto Gajani, Angiolo Barbetti, Ca rlo Bartolozzi, Carlo Cambi, and others created exuberant renditions of Renaissance-style ornament on furniture (FIG. 6).'s Frullini achieved particular fa me for his

of whom bought European art out of a desire to

di plays at world's fairs, which led to the 1875 commission to create a dining room and furni shings

surround themselves with fine and fa ncy things

fo r C hateau-sur-Mer, George Peabody Wetmore's

6. Lui gi Frullini. Armchair, Florence, ca. 1873- 76. Walnut. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston . Frullini's training as a sculptor is ev ident in his furniture. This armchair combines decorative elements ca rved with great vi rtuos ity, including a dove, insects, fo li age, a sleeping putto on a cushion , and a bat on the apron below the seat ra il. The dark wood and monumental shape reca ll the Renaissa nce, a style in vogue in the late ninetee nth century.


13. Ferrazza 1994, pp. 166-76. 14. Ferrazza 1994, p. 216 note 55. 15. Chiarugi 1994.

The appeal of Italian Renaissance furniture

7. Luigi Frullin i. Fireplace in rh e dining room of C h ateau-sur-Mer, 1876, Newport. Frullini achieved inrern ari on a l fa me afrer displaying hi s Ren a issa nce-rev iva l furniture at world 's fa irs in rhe 1860s and 1870 . Among hi s America n devotees was George Peabody Wetmore (1846- 192 1), Rhode Island governor a nd senator. Wetmore met Fru ll ini in Florence, and ordered walnut woodwork fo r the library and dinin g roo m of his h ouse in N ewport.

vacation home in Newport

16. Fleming 1973: part 3 (1 979), p. 571. 17. Fleming 1973: pa rt 3, p. 571.

( FIG.

7) . In London,

pictures, appears to have cultivated a related taste

Sir William Drake, a ba nker and fo under of the

fo r gilded and pa inted furniture, particularly cas-

Bu rlington Fine Arts C lub, avid ly sought neo-

soni and decorated pa nels detached from them.20

Rena issa nce furniture by Frullini, using Spence

Spence set to developing a market fo r cassoni.

as his agent.16 The relaxed attitude towards period

H owever, there was a problem. Typica lly, these

authent icity extended to his t reatment of ind i-

ut ilita rian storage chests had suffered great dam-

vidu al obj ects. In discussing a chest he had just

age fro m insect~, kicking feet, dangling keys, h am- _

purcha d in Florence, Dra ke wrote to Spence, "I

h anded transport, and household use in the fo ur

think it will be b tter to take off the present feet

hundred yea rs since they h ad been made. Rather

and put it on a wa lnut or gilt st and," but he sa id


that he didn't want to hire "an expensive man

collectors desired prist ine obj ects fo r their fancy

like Frullini" for the task. 17 ln this market , it was

interiors. Spence and others began the custo m

timeworn antiques , nineteenth-century

the art dea ler who stood to benefit most from

of making up new chests to contain per iod cas-

replicating, comp ro mising, or even counterfeit ing

sone paint ings, with the new sections aged to

Renaissance furniture - a nd unscrupulous dea lers

match the authentic panels. N ot only do most

d id just that.

nineteenth-century chest with painted panels

pence himself was accused of of-

fe ring "mobili antichi raffazz ion ati da fa legnami

postdate Spence's activities as a dea ler, but also,

e stipettai vivi e verdi" (antique furniture made

given the consistency of quality and style, such

/;anciquariato: Rivisca indipendence 10, nos. 1-2

up by living and inexperienced woodworkers

chests appea r to have been fab ricated in Flor-

(Ja n.-Feb. 1923), p. 2.

and cabinet-makers).18 Bard ini, too, was know n

ence before they were sold to collectors abroad. 21

to have "cleaned, restored, and sometimes even made up his antique furniture." 19

Whether intended to be fraudulent or not at the

lt was Spence who d id the most to propel Ita lian furn iture - ca soni, in pa rticu lar - onto the

once the obj ect passed from one owner to the

18. Ibid., p. 576. 19.



" tefa no

Bardini ,"

20. According co Fleming, these Hwere among

the most av idly collected Ita lia n works of art in the mid-nineteenth century" (Fleming 1973: part 3, p. 57 1; also part 2, p. 504 note 72; pa rt 3, p. 572 note 53). 21. Ca liman 1999. O ne such exa mple is a cas路 sone with panels depicting the Battle of A nghiari, n ineteenth centur y with s01ne mid~ fi f, reenth,century elements; Musco A rqueo logico Naciona l, Madrid [inv. 51936].

t ime, confusion abo ut an obj ect's origin set in next. The new owner, not aware of the previo us

art market. The interest of American and British

chapter in the object's history, might easily as-

collectors in the Italian "primit ives," that is, gold-

sume it was entirely authentic. Isabella Ga rdner

ground pa inting and other early Rena issance

h ad no less than eigh t casson i or detached panels,

I less

8. Bec.lroom in Eli a Vo lpi's Palazzo Davanzati, Florence, ca. 19 15. Th e bec.I on a platfo rm was acquirec.I by the Metropoli tan Mu eum at Volpi 's auct ion in 19 16 but wa:, later c.l ctcrrnin ec.I to be a fake .

two of which were extensively rebuilt in the late

to the U nited

nineteenth century ( CATS. 36, 90) .

art dea lers in th e Italian Rena issa nce d cora-

Given th large amount of money to b made,

tate , a nd the mo t impo rta nt

tive a rt (who e activities sur vived the collapse

craftsm n trained in a rt academies and as re torers

of the stock ma rket in i 929) were French and

ava iled them elve of a new, highly u eful tool for

Company a nd the Duv en Brothers, under the

their trade: the photograph .22 Elia Volpi a nd others

guid a nce of Joseph Duveen (1 869- 1939 ).21 The ir

A l co Dos!'!c na <1 nc.I th e pamlc r lcil10 Fedt: ri co

were implicated in sel ling dubious obj ects, know-

combined client list included James Deering

Jo n i.


(who decorated hi s ho use in Miami, Vizcaya,

After the New York sa les of the 1910s, Volpi rented

with Italia n furniture), William Randolph H ea rst,

h is Pa lazzo Davanzati to other d alers, Vita le and

larence Mackay, Joseph E. Wid ener, Jo hn Ring-

ingly or not, to collector a nd museums

(FI G.

a muel H. Kres , and J. Paul


tty. A ll of

in 1926. With the American conomy in decline

these collectors were bo rn into pri vilege except

in the 1920s, heading towards the C rash, and

fo r Ringling (born Ruengling), o n of a Germa n

with news of art fa kery emerging, a nervous public

immigra nt far mer and ha rness maker, and Kress

chose to spend their money elsewhere. Volpi's Pala-

who had worked as a yo uth in stone quarr ies

zzo Davanzati was acquired by the Italian state in

nea r A llentown, Pennsylva ni a. Ultimately, the

195 1 and opened five years later as a mu eum of the

collectio ns of th ese individ ual estab lished or, at

"antica ca a fiorentina."

the very least, significantly enriched ma ny of the most important American a rt mu seum s.

ee Fe rr azza 1994, pp. 223-52. The scho l路


a r who h a; J one t he mo.;t to ex plore tlrn ficlJ " Gia nni Mazzo ni (Mazzo n i 200 L, Mazzo ni 2004) . Joni, perha ps the mo;t outrageous of the;e fa ker;, cl everl y ex pres;eJ hi; 1ntent1o ns in

Leopoldo 'Bengujat, who then bought the building

At this time, the art market had expa nd ed

22. Two o f lhc mo!) t fom o w. arc the 'culpto r

h" persona l emblem 1n;c ribeJ wit h t he



P.A. I.


.A. P." mea ning per andare m

c ullo a l pnm imo" (to stick it up the backs1J e of the nex t guy). 2l

C hari w 1 Brc me r-Dav 1J , "French &

o m路

pany and A merica n co llccu o n \ of tapes tne!'!/


Decorative Ans 11 (2003 4), pp. 38-68. Sa mue l Na th a niel Behrma n , Duveen ( Lo nJon , L952); Ja me; I le nr y Duvee n , The Rise of the House of

Duveen (Lo nJo n, 1957); a nJ Me ryle Secre>t, Duveen: A Life in An (New York, 2004). The a rchi ve; of both firm ; a re 1n t he Getty Resea rch In stitute Lihrary.


Fenway Court from [he eas[, 1903

Note to the reader

Museum in o rder to reflect Isabella Ga rdner's installations. Each sec-

LACQUER ANO JAPANN ING Coated furniture, e pecia lly t hat produced in eighteenth-centu ry

tion starts with a short discussion of the history and function of the

Venice, is often called lacquer, or in Italia n, lacca. This is not t rue

room. A ch ro nologica l list of furniture appea rs after the catalogue.

Lacquer, wh ich is an extremely durable coating produced in Asia

This catalogue is arranged according to the ga lleries of the Gardner

This catalogue t reats wooden obj ects made fo r seating, stor-

from the sap of the lacquer t ree, a nd called urushi. Asian lacquer

age, and d isplay. Detach ed cassone painting have been catalogued

in pired Eu ropea n imitation s produced th ro ugh ent irely d ifferent

elsewhere (Hendy 1974) and frames a re the subject of another spe-

technique , using paint and varn ish , often tinted. These Eu ro-

cialized stud y. A lso omitted a re metal fixtures and museum display

pea n techniques are more properly ca lled japanning. Testi ng shows

cases compo ed of mold ings of various dates a nd schools.

that the pa inted design layers were normally coated with re ino us

CATALOGUING Itali an terms a re given for furniture types a nd techniques, e pecial-

o r shellac.

ly when no precise English tran slation ex i ts. A l o see the glossa ry. In many cases, we have used terms closer to the Italian ("onion"

PROVENANCE Jack a nd Isabella Gardner ca refull y saved their receipts, invoices,

rat her tha n "bun" foot) or employed the Italian term rather than

a nd hipping documents. The attributions of dealers are cited in the

use an obscure Engli sh o r French word (pozzetto fo r a ro unded

e ntries. In some cases, a single obj ect may be described many times,

va rnishes that might include Venice tu rpentine, copal, sa ndrac,

fro m Jack's prelimina ry no tes, to a first invoice, then o ne with a

bergere ch air). Measurements a re given in the order: height, width, and depth.

discount, plus shi pping document and customs papers.

For seat ing furniture, the depth at the level of the seat or the arms is given , rather t ha n the overhang of the chair back. Left and right always refer to the viewer's point of view. The entrie h ave been written by Fausto Calderai and A lan C hong. The attributions are by Fau to C alderai. Proven ance a nd

CU RRENCIES In the period di cus ed here, there were about 5.2 Italian lire to one U S dolla r. The French fra nc was equiva lent in value to the lira. The British pound was worth about $4.86.

museum history is by A la n Chong. De criptions of materials and techniq ues have been compiled by Valenti ne Talland. Armorial and iconographic research is by Anne-Marie Eze. Fausto Calderai h as

Sou RcEs The documents cited - including letters, invoices, receipts, and dia-

collaborated closely with Oronzo Brunetti . Sta nton Tho mas h as

ries - are preserved in the G ardner Museum unless otherwise no ted.

edited and contributed to the major entries.

Most of the museum' furniture is briefly catalogued in the

General Catalogue published in 1935 (Ga rdner cat. 1935). Although Wooos

compiled by G ilbert Long treet under the supervision of Morris

Woods h ave been identified for the most part by Simone C hia rugi.

Ca rter, the first director of the museum, the furniture was cata-

In the summary descr iptions, the original woods are listed, with a ny

logued by Erwin 0. C hri tia nsen , assistant d irector from 1927 to

replacement woods described in the text. The most common woods used in Italian furniture a re :

l93I. Tho ma E. Ma rr and his son photographed Isabella Ga rdner's homes as well as her museum fro m aro und 1895 to 1926. Thomas




Marr d ied in 1910 and his on Arthur (d. 1954) continued the busi-



ness as Thomas E. Marr and Son. Marr's negative numbers are cited

popla r




]uglans regia genus Populus genus Abies , especially Abies alba (abete bia nco)

in the captions. UPHOLSTERY Only when original or otherwise significant is the upholstery described in this catalogue. With on ly very few exceptions, the uphol-

A lso found are: white pine







palissand ro

Pinus cembra Swietania mahagoni genus Pyrus genus Dalbergia

stery on the mu eum's furniture is modem and h as been replaced since Isabella Gardner acqu ired the pieces, often several times. In recent years, the museum h as attempted to use furnishing fa brics that approximate those Isabella G ardner employed on her furnitu re.


Blue Room




Isabella Gardner's own guidebooks, published about every other year beginning in 1903, stated that the Blue Room h ad modern the Yellow Room an d th e Blue Room. This door, rather paintings. 2 Both the Yellow and Blue Rooms than the door align ed with the center of the Courtyard, remain devoted to art of the nineteenth was u sed by visitors and con cert,goers during Isabella century and migh t be said to represent the quotidian world - a threshold to the historiGardner's lifetime. G u ests at th e inauguration of the m u, cal settings and treasures beyond. seu m on Januar y l, 1903 en tered h ere and u sed th e two The Blue Room, which received its 1 side galleries as cloakroom s. They are called r eception name on ly in 1925, after Isabella Gardner's 3 room s on the original plan and were equipped w ith to i, death, is unusual in design. It connects to both front entrances of the museum and is lets for gu est s (FIG. A). This entran ce led d ir ectly to the divided into two sections by projecting walls. Music Room , a t wo, st ory,high con cert h all that was The eastern h alf h as two alcoves as well as a dais at the window where Isabella Gardner d em olish ed in 1914 (see fig. p. 61). once kept a desk (FIG. B) . The furniture of the room seems to have been used regularly. Gardner altered the paintings and furnishings of the Blue Room several times. By the time of h er death in 1924, the room had taken on more of the appearance of a formal gallery as she added works by artists who were close friends, including eleven by John Sargent, fo ur by A nders Zorn, and several by John La Farge, Antonio Mancini, Denis Miller Bunker, Joseph Lindon Smith, and Ralph C urtis.4

"House for Mrs. John L. Ga rdner." Pla n of the ground fl oor of Fenway Court, ca. 1903. 1. Yellow Room. 2. Blue Room. 3. Ma in Entrance. 4 . Vatichino. 5. Macknight Room (reconfi gured in 1915). A.


B. Blue Room in 1903 with cats. 4, 5, 8 [Marr 9009]

I. Ca rter 1925, p. 199.

2. Ga rdner cat. 1903, p. I. 3. In Gardner cat. 1924, the room is still simply called "the roo m on the ri ght of the A ntech amber" but in the edi t ion of Nove mber 1925 (Ga rdner cat. 1925, p. 3), it is ca lled "The Blue Room."

4. O n the Blue Room, see Eva n Turner in Ga rdner cat. 2003, pp. 188-90.


r t








• 1

L l "T


;~--i Jie.Ul.PTl<JH














:~~j Fi PLAN


,3C. ...



d' GIC!.01...iND 4 IH

l f' OOT






- !-lo;J~L . k Bo.:,TON







I. S1J li'


Th e ~ imp l e l i n e1> Hnd 1he deui r:11 10 11 in 11pi1 ed


hy nnci ent fo rn1 11 •xemplif y 1he N •ocl ni.1> icn l


i.1yle in Ve ni


84 .8




61 .4


. Et>p •c inll y 11 01nhle nre 1he

fin el y cn rved dernl li. , highli ghted in hri ll im1r co lo r1> ngrlin 1> L 11 ye ll ow gro und nnd 11e1 o ff hy h

we ll -proprn 1in ned mo ldin g,, Th e 1nperin g ler.:,., r11 • nu1 ed , pnr ll y

co mhim1ri o n o ( hi gh-reli ef

nr v in g w irh a N eo IAss i Al

-, 1o pped hy 1 edin g, nnd pHin 1•d w ilh Lendri l1>, A npirnl 1no ldin g

nenhihi I i1y m akei. Lh is 1avolo da muro u nu sunl in V eneLin n f urn irure

I mm en 1he f:1u x-mnrh le l op.

o ( 1he peri od. Ind eed , rh e pu1 10 }llld AC o mpnn yin g orn:i mcnrs, as

h e np1 o ni. heni (e1>10011 ,., o f o li ve hnrn cheH h nngin g from Rower r1lyxe1>. A 1L:K hed Lo 1he fe1>1oon ,., (four on rh e (ronr, t wo on en ho( 1h 1iid 1> ) nr 1m 11iiu il in1>1rum ent1> , qui v r ii w i1h

flrl'O WM,

luht>, nnd

we ll nH 1he upper spir:i l mo ldin g, rec all rh e ex uheranr Bnroq ue form s o ( 1li e scve n reen l h 1hr e dif~ ' re nr sryl ibti

enrury. T h e di srin rive om hi n at io n of

impu lscb - Baroq ue, Ro o o, And Neoclas-

fn, ce1>. A l 1he cen1 er it> n bl ind fo ld d pulto , repr 1>'nrn1i ve o( unr •-

si ism - suggesrs rh ar rhi s 1ahie wn s m:id e for n prov in i al serrin g

t>ll ni n •d erori c love . Th e 1>ym hu l, rhu 1> min gle wn1, m u1> ic, nn d love .

in 1he oun l rysid e nenr V eni e, or for a modesL privm • room in n

he 1nhle owen m11ch 10 Pren h NeoclnM1i nl (urni 1ure de1> ign1> 1h :11 we 1 fn1ih lon nhle I h ro ughuur Europe. Vene1inn furn l111 re-mn l er1i. Slmilnr pi •


h ey we re ndopted I 1y nppen r in 1he drnw in gH

n f Pi e1ro A n 1onl o Nove ll i (1 729- 1804), who i lli1 s1rn 1ed popu lcir drnm :111 l ike rh ot>


nrlu On ldoni. I n co nLrn1>I w ith rh e curv i ng

l lne1> o ( rh e Roco o t> l yl prevn le111 in V eni

V ene1inn pnl:i zzo . T hi n mny

h ' 1he 1-ahl e pur h nscd in Ve ni e in 1897 hy Jn k

0flrdner, w hi ch h ' des rih ed ns a "Y, I low pa in1 ed rnh le" and whi h on sigli o Ri en 1ury)."

h 11 i listed on


rece ip1 as "O ne rnh le paimed (xv 11


In 1he rnid-eigh1 eenth

ce n1111 y, Neocln 1>1>I nl pl ce1> l ike rh i;, 1nh le nre hn t> d on rec1il i n nr

Provc nnn e: Perhnps purch ased hy Ja k Gn rdn r from

form 1> nnd cl n ~1> i c n l referenc Hof Pren h mod •11>,

Ri cc het l i, V •ni ce , in Scpremher r897 (o r 120 li re. B lue Room, 19 r 5

1>0 111


n rh e 01her hnnd ,

:11u re1> t1 f 1he rnh le rem11in fnl 1h (1 il 10 nn enrli erV •nerinn rrn -

dil Inn ,

he cnrve d (mm 1> hnve hee n pnln 1•d In 1i1m ng 011 1l'flHI wi 1h

1he ye ll ow g1nund , V enel inn lncquer -


co lored vnrn i1ih

ove rt>

i-l1e pnln 1, impnr rln g n wnrm , lumlnrn 11> glow rn 1he rnh le. A nn ly1> !1> of 1h

vnrnl 1>h 1ihow1> 1h nr ii it> co mpri t> •d primnri ly o( V eni ce

1-urpen1 In

(n lnr h Lr e r •s in), whl h mny h nve been l ighL i n ro ne

wh n h r~ r :1ppl led ,1


I ( lrlh

l h1 11 11 )f1l 1tpg 111 pl 1y/ 11 1roii1 n1111L t11 11 111 •1r y 1.- 11 1\

dH l l l'd d i il H ~ hl M 11111 11 1 hnt·

ll h1 l\ 11n11111

2 l ~1 1-- k ( ii1 1d1111 b li !'J I 1n d 1 11 ~~ d IH A 11 g 11 bl HN7, du· Hll' lj ll Ii:.) l-w p1 111d wr \HU? l\t11h l' l\t li L'h ilt l ' 1H lq 1d I L) 1111 (d l11LP lll \\1 d 2 0 1 ~11 !I l l ti ll · il'U 'll' t ) , 1

1ll h l

dn· H'b l

11 1 ll H nh11 1Ll t1 ~Il l !111 hi \ 1111

o nsigli o

rMnrr 20043 ] . Li 1' rarure: Ga rdn er n1. r93 5, p. 26 ll nrc 181h o r ' nrl y 19Lh Lo uis X V I s1yle l. F.


' ntur y;

nlderni, in Snra sorn and M emphi s 2009, no. 40.

Blue /loom


Blue Room


VITRINE (TECA) This type of ecclesiastical fu rnit ure, made on a


domestic scale, was generally produced in the


Papal States, especially the Marches, and was frequently decorated with gilding and fa ux ma rbling. The a rchitectural fo rm of this vitrine with its arched door is appropriate fo r the display of religious sculptures or relics. It is painted cream, brow n, a nd dark blue-green to simulate

Provenance : Purch ased, with the next entry, from Moise Da lla

various kinds of stone. The door is framed by two pilasters set at 45

Torre, Venice, in October 1906 ("2 Vetrinette legno con dorature,"

degree angles to the front. G arlands of leaves hang from the capi-

with 8 candelieri and

tals. Rising from the entablature is a small cupola. Vases crown the

20043]. Literature: G ardner cat. 1935, p. 24 [possibly Italian or So uth Ger-

dome and the two com er pilasters. Above the door is a circula r container covered with glass, origin ally surro unded by a small gilded frame, of which only a small section remains. Within this reliqu ary are a small gilt cross and texti le fragments, together with a piece of paper bearing an inscription. Isabella Gardner installed a C hinese vase (C3s3 ) in the vitrine.


ricamo, fo r 650 lire]. Blue Room, 1915 [Marr

ma n, ea rly 19th century]. G a rdner cat. 1997, p. 33. F3s2

Blue Room


Made to display religiou


is decorated with an elaborate frame of fo liage




29 CM

cu lptures, this vitrine

rising up with increasingly rich scrolls, a well a lilies which frame the arched door. A cherub appea rs in the undulating ped iment. The inner frame of the glazed door is carved with scroll and fo liag . A ll of the relief carving i


gilded , while the spa ndrels and side panels are pa inted with bri lliant

Literature: Gard ner cat. 1935 , p. 26. Gardner cat. 1997, p. 34路

ee previous entr y.

tones of blue in imitation of azu ri te. The interio r is painted red.


Isabella Gardner installed the top of a bishop's crozier (S3s14) in the v itrine. She acq uired thi and another vit rine (CAT. 2) at the same time in Venice in 1906, but they we re not made as a pair. She placed them together in an a lcove of the Blue Room.


Blue Room

ARMCHA IR (POLTRONA) This armcha ir is typica l of Neoclassica l furniture


produced in the Veneto. Painted in pa le blue, PA INTED AND GILDED WALNUT AND CHERRY, 88.8 x 6r.4 x 5r.1 CM japanned with Venetian lacq uer, and outlined with gilding, the armcha ir h as cylindrical, tapering legs which a re fluted. The tablet above each leg is ca rved with a corolla and gilded; these do not appea r on the back of the cha ir. The rectangular back inclines slightly. The pad-

Provena nce: It is not known how Isabella G ardner acqu ired the

ded armrests term inate in scrolls which rest on cur ved supports.

ch a ir, but it was placed in the Blue Room by 1903 (FIG. p. 43).

The legs are carved in wa lnut, the ra ils in cherry. The o rigina l linen straps and suppo rts survive. The blue pa int on the cha ir is largely original, a lthough there a re numerous losses which h ave been retouched.

Literature: Gardner cat. 1935 , p. 27 [Lo mba rd , late 18th century] . F3w4

5. Two ARMc 11 A1RS (Po1.TnoNF)

l!NTR/\L ITALY, l'A. 1770s PA1NTE1) AN 1l ; 11 n Fn WA LN UT, t'A.


he chnirs cn mhine nspec ts of 1he RnCllCll, CLH11 mnn in 1he middle tif the L'i ght ee nth ce n1ury,

1 x 62 x 0.5 t' M

with Neoc lnss ic:il L'ie men1 s fmm :irn11nd 177 I ll 178 . he fi rst is sern in the grncefull y shnped chnir hnck nnd 1he ge n1ly spir:ilin).! nr ms :rnd su1 ports. More N 'O' lnss i 路nl n1" the moldin gs nnd 1he tren1mcn1 u(

th ' l 'gs. "irculnr in 路ross-S' ' ti on, thcyn r ' flut ed :rnd ri se tu squnre npit nIs. h ' 19 5 -nrn loguc 1hought t hnt 1h ' chnirs m igh1 h:1vc b ' cn mad ' in Lombard y, but th ey nr ' more likel y to h:1vc hee n

l)rove n:rn c ' : Blt1e Roo m, 19 3 ( 1~ 1 c. p. 43) . Lit cr:11urc: Cnrd ncr c:11 . 193 , p. 37 ILt imh:1rd ?I. U:rnlner C: ll . 1t)l)7,

mad ' in ' nr rn l Ita ly. T h ' a rm ha irs arc 路urr ' ntly p:1intcd in whit ' with gilded 1rim. I lnwev ' r, thi s s h ' m ' may not b ' ori gin al; ove rp:1inl hns unduuht -

F1w4 2

'd ly give n rl ' h;1irs ;1 h ' nv i ' r tex ture and mor ' opnqu ' -olor rhnn they wou Id hnve on ' had.

p. 32路

Blue Room

6. Two CONSOLE TABLES (COPP!A DI CONSOLE) These semicircular console tables a re noteworthy NAPLES, END OF THE 18T H CENTURY for their finely ca rved and inventive decoration . PAINTED AND SILVERED POPLAR, MARBLE TOP, CA. 93 x 120 x 53 CM Supporting simple white marble tops are elaborate, cornice-like skirts. The e are ornamented by ba nds of leaf and tongue ca rving and cour es of pearling. C ha rming undulating rinceaux of morning glory vines

shelf supported by a bracket attached d irectly to the wall. However,

- recognizable by their pointed leaves, tubu lar flowers, a nd clustered

there seems to have been no specific term fo r tables of this type in

seedpods - flow along the fronts. The delicacy of the ca rving is

eighteenth-centu ry Italy. For insta nce, in the Magazzino di mobilia

echoed by the delicate flu ti ng on the slender, tapered legs. These

of 1796 and G iova nni Battista Piranesi's Diverse maniere d'adornare

are topped wit h elaborate vase-shaped capitals, each ca rved with rosettes in high relief as well as bands of pea rl and minute acanthus fo liage. The legs terminate in simple pea r-shaped fee t set below upright, crisply carved leaves. The tables were fo rmerly attributed to Venice, a major center of varnished polychrome cabinetmaking. However, the tables a re

i cammini of 1769, a piece of furnitu re like this was simply called

"tavolino," or little table. 2 Isabella Ga rdner placed the tables in the Blue Room in 1903 and they h ave remained in place ever since (FIG. p. 5). S he must have favored the contrast of the tables' warm cream and pa le golden sheen against the lustrous blue surfaces of t he wa ll silks.

in fact excellent examples of Neoclassica l furniture prod uced in Naples at the end of the eighteenth century. Particularly charac-

Provenance: Probably bo ught fro m Gaetano Pepe, Naples, in

teristic of southern Italian works is the tech nique of applying metal

October 1897 for 285 lire ["2 consol intagli ate con marmi (N apoli)

leaf to the ca rved decoration. Known as mecca gilding or doratura a

/ 1700"]. A lso sa id to h ave been purch ased from George A. Gardner,

m ecca, silver leaf was applied and then coated with a tinted varnish

Jack Gardner's brother. 1 Blue Room, 1903.

to simulate the color of gold.1 O ld varnish , probably original to the

Literature: Ga rdner cat. 1935, p. 28 [Venet ian, late 19th century].

table, covers the silver a nd lends it a pale yellow hue. The subd ued

Gardner cat. 1997 [1 8th centur y].

effect of this doratura a m ecca gives the surfaces a warmth and rich -


ness that is ch aracteristic of Neapolitan fu rnitu re. The con struction of the tables also points to thei r southern origin. The marble i set atop wooden rails rat her than in a rabbet as one would expect to find in pieces made in Venice or in central and northern Ita ly. In addition, the relative thinness of the slab suggests that it did not originate in Rome or Florence. The Bourbon dynast y, wh ich ru led Naples fro m 1734 to 1805 (and aga in fro m 1815 to 1860), et refined tandards fo r the decorative arts, as seen here in the elega ntly finished legs, sophisticated decorative frieze, a nd delicate ca rving. Th is type of side table, or tavolo da muro, can also be cla sified as a console table. In particular, the diminutive size and semicircular sh ape echo the original fo rm of the console, which i a small circu lar


I. Exa minati on with x; ray fluo rescence shows rhar the meta l leaf applied to the table is silver. Wh ile a na lysis ca nnot demonstrate thac the va rnish coat is tinted, it

is very li ke ly that the effect of gilding was produced by covering the sil ve r leaf wit h a ye llow;hued varnish.

2. Magazzino 1796, p. v. W il ton-El y 1994, p. 957, fig. 884. 3. The provenance is give n in the l&N as "bought of Geo rge A. Ga rdner, no data." Given the lack of ev idence fo r this and the Neapol itan ori gin of the tab les, it is more likely that they were bo ught in Naples in 1897. The Ga r<lners sometimes bought fu rni ture fo r fa mil y and friends, so it is a lso possible that Isa bella bought the tables back from George Ga rdner.

Blue Room

Blue Room

7路 WRITING DESK (SC RI VAN IA) De pite its rich, dark wood and solid fo rm, this


writing desk po e ses an el gant buoyancy be- WALNUT AND PI NE, 74.J x 128.5 x 50 CM cau e of its graceful lines and its fa nciful carved INLAID PANELS: CHERRY, YEW, ASH, JUJUBE, FIR, AN D MULBERRY; CENTER: 35路4 x 71 CMj decoration. Delicate pa lm frond flow up from

SIDE PANELS: 35. 4 x 2r.4 M

simple feet. The fo liage ex tends d irectly up fro m the legs to the top at all fo ur corners. The bra nches al o bra nch out to the sides so thar they fo rm a continuous frame that embraces the entire piece. Most unusually,

and musica l instruments. C heckered, inla id bands divide the fo ur

the drawers pick up this movement; their outlines curve into subtle

groups; at the side these terminate in elaborate scrolls. Flanking


the centra l section a re simple pa nels of ba nds of alternating colors,


Edged with delicate, highly linea r roca ille carving, the drawer

la id o ut in concentric rectangles.

face gently swell outward , enhancing the suggestion of orga nic

It is very likely that this desk was made in t he Veneto at the

motion . The unique fo rm of the d rawer is echoed by the trefoil

end of the eighteenth century specifica lly to incorporate the earlier

escutcheons on the upper d rawers which reca ll three-lobed leaves.

inta rsia pa nels. This would explain t he unusual proportions; it is

Dir ctly above the kneehole and ex tending across the center of the

rat her sha llower tha n most known exa mples.

desk is a pocket leaf that slides out. The desk top is sur ro unded by robust beading, which frames elaborate inla id panel . The natura listic treatment of the leg and frame r ca ll the

The desk is ma inly made of wa lnut. The drawers are made entirely of wa lnut, while the side panels are wa lnut veneered over pine. There a re ome los e of veneer. The bronze escutcheons of the top

ea rlier and more complex exa mples made by Andrea Brustolon

left and top right drawers h ave a ra re three-lobe design. The other

(1662- 1732) .1 O n the other hand, the drawer fronts h ave a later,

escutcheons may not be origina l.

strong Rococo fl avor. Finally, the beaded molding aro und the top,

The desk wa presumably in place in the Blue Room by 1915 as

more N eoclass ica l in taste, permits us to date the desk to the end of

the sofa and obj ects on the desk ca n be seen in a photograph [Marr

the eighteenth century.


The intarsia pa nels set into the top are considerably ea rlier than the desk itself and were made in southern G erm any or the Tirol in

Provena nce: Purchased from Dino Barozzi, Venice, in September

the ea rly seventeenth century.2 These three panel probably bega n

1897 fo r 300 lire ("Uno scr ittorio noce intagliato"; fi g. 20 on p. 25].3

life as the front and side of a writing cabinet. In th centra l panel,

Literature: G ardner cat. 1935, p. 39 [Ita lian, perhaps early 19th

an oval vignette shows a n elaborate image of a ma n on horseback.

century; the marqu etr y 17th-century, south G erman] . Gard ner cat.

Before an intricate arched cityscape he perfo rm a !evade, a fo r-

1997, p. 33路 F3 IO

mal equestri an exercise where a rider holds the horse in a rea ring pos ition. A ro und thi centra l ca rtouche and its scro lled border a re other sy mbo ls of noble pursuits: weapons, card-playing, books,


ln ta rsia pa nel (so uthern Germa ny, ea rly 17t h ce ntury) on the top of the desk I. ee Belluno 2009.

2. The inrarsia panels arc very sim ilar in <lesign and size to elements of schreibtischen or wr iting cabinets made

<lu ring the seventeenth centu ry in Ti rol and Bava ria. See fo r exa mple Lieselotte von Moller, Der Wrangelschrank Lmd die verwandren siidde1aschen lmarsiemnObel des 16 . Jahrhunderts (Berli n, 1956); a nJ exa mples in the Bayc risches Nariona lmuseL1m, Munich.

3. Note in the l&N: "Mrs. Oa rJne r t hinks t h is



one." A list made at Ba rozzi by Jack Ga rdner recorJ s: " I Secretary table, 350." Invoice of 23 September IS97: "Mobi le scri ttoio" 350, and the d iscounteJ price of 300 (see fi g. p. 25). Packing list of 15 N ovember: "Uno sc rittori o noce inta. to con entro 2 ca rtoni di li bro e una pie# cola cornice - vend uti - 375."

Blue Room


Blue Room

8. Su 1TE OF FU RN ITU RE (F1N1M ENTO) This suite of caned furniture is typica l of Pied- P1EDMONT, LATE l 8TH CENTURY montese taste at the end of the eigh teenth PAINTED WALNUT, CAN E century, when French influence was at its pea k. SETTEE (DI VANO) : ro8.6 x 157.8 x 6!.6 CM [IN THE MACKNIGHT RooM] The piece are made of ca rved walnut which h as

Two ARMCHA IRS (POLTRONE): CA. 92 x 58 x 49 CM

been painted in cream and blue. The seats are

Fou R SIDE CHAIRS (sEDIE): CA. 91 x 53 x 45 CM

shield-shaped wh ile the backs a re oval, a fo rm repeated in the center of the settee. The backs and seats a re ca ned. The legs, circular in cross-section , are tapered and

The set was placed in the Blue Room by 1903. The settee is

fluted, and rest on cylindrica l feet. The front ra ils of the chairs bow

visible in a photograph of t hat yea r, but by 1915 it had been moved

out gentle and are carved with sprays of elongated leaves painted green and pink, as are the flowers tied with ribbon s on all the crest

to the Macknight Room where it remained.

rai ls. The a rmchairs have upholstered armrests with volute end ;

Provenance: Purch ased fro m Antonio Settini, Venice, in Septem-

the haped supports are fluted. The settee h as similar armrests although they a re not upholstered. It is likely that the square tablets

ber 1899 fo r 500 lire ["per un fo rnimento d i mobili dipinti co mposto di due poltrone, quatt ro sedie ed un ca nape"]. Blue Room,

above the legs, on the ra il, were origi nally decorated with corollas. The pieces have been repainted, in some cases on multiple oc-

1903 (FIG. p. 43). Literature: Ga rdner cat. 1935, pp. 29-30. G ardner cat. 1997, pp. 31,

casions. However, the original color scheme of a cream background with blue highlights and caning can be glimpsed where the later

35, 44路 F3s20

paint has flaked off. Cross-sections show that the original crea m and blue paint were coated with a relatively th ick layer of natura l resin varnish , as is typica l of japanning. Some of the ca ning on the set is original, but it has been entirely over painted (blue on the chairs and green on the settee) at a later period.



Settee (F3s20.7 )

B. Armcha ir (F3s10.1)

c. Side chair (F3s20.3 )

Blue Room


Blu e Hoom

9路 TABLE (TAVOLO) The top of this fin ely mad refo tory tab le i a


singl pi ece of wa lnut. It is supported by turned WALN T, 80.2 x 198. 1 x 59 M balu ter at tached to skat fe t, which are joined by a traverse (a later r plac m nt in pin ). Th tyl e of th leg sugge t th at it wa ma le in Tu ca ny or Umbr ia. Th

19 5 ata log ue stated that th tab le was a monastic typ u u-

all y associat d with Bologna. Provenan e: Probably pur ha eel from Joel Koopman, Boston, in Febru ary 191 for $400 !"Old R -h ctory Table"]. Blu Ro m, I926 !Marr 24194] . ardn r cat. r9 5, p. 32 [Itali an, mid-17th Literatur F W2

ntury] .


S10E TABLE (TAV L DA MURO) iTALY ?, 19T H CENTURY, WITH LEGS OF THE LATE 18TH ~ ENTURY This table wa assembl cl from element of clif- C 1LOEO wooo, 8i.3 x 180.3 x 52.5 M h-r nt dat : the legs app r to be of the late ighte nth ntury whi l th apron elate from the nin t enth c ntury. Th pi ce wa then covered in g o ncl gilded to r ate a unifo rm surfa . It lack top. It was draped with some fab ri in 190 and later a d ) urnent as wa built to be plac cl atop it. Provenan : Blu Roo m, 190 [M rr 9011 ]. Fy15

Blue Room



Somewh at crude in construction and decora-


tion, thi small portab le cab inet was designed




23.2 CM

to hou e papers and writing supplies. The externa l case and cabinetry within date from two distinct period . The table cabinet opens with a locking fa ll front (the key ur-

vives); it is not hinged, but h as metal pegs to keep it in place. The top of the cabinet is hinged to revea l a shallow tray. This externa l case, made of pine, appears to h ave been made to enclo e a cabinet of an ea rlier date. Made of cedar, the internal cabinet h as an arched door decorated with a figure of a standing ma n. Column and two small drawers flank the door. At the bottom is a wide drawer with three recesses for ink and writing supplies. The exterior is decorated with champleve carving a nd burning. The outer face of the fa ll front h as a ca rtouche supported by putti. On the side of the box are fi gures in arche : on the left side, a woman with the inscription "CONTADINA''; on the right side, a cavalier with a partially effaced inscription reading" ... [CA] PIT ANO." O n the inside of the lid is burned a scene of a ga rden with figures. The drawer fronts are decorated with fo liage.

Provenance: Purchased from G. Brauer, Florence, in October 1906 fo r 200 lire ("r casket in wood XV century with sma ll figure probably from Trento." Another invoice as "pai nted and coat of arms and animals: for 拢15.0.0"]. Blue Room, 1926 [Marr 24195]. Literature: Gardner cat. 1935, p. 26 [north Itali an, 15th century, with 17th-century decoration]. Gardner cat. 1997, p. 34路

F3 9








T h ' Yel low Room rel nin s ;1 sl rong onn " 1ion to music. h do urn enl ases we re fl ll •J wn y, 1h ' cll ow Ro011 c rigin:J ll y (un li on c ] as th with I , ri- rs, pho1ogrnphs, nnd progrnm s onm 'n 's loa l, roo1T1. 1 Isab ll a ardn r to k ar ' ov r its n 1'd with fa mous mu si inn s nnd omposd , orn i-i o n , and l il , tl • n u scum wa s un ] ' 1' o n stru .. ers, mosr of whom lsah 'Il a knew p ' rsonally. uro1 c ~m nnd Asinn mu si nl in struments ti o n in r9 1, sh ' h nd a ston w in low a ld l o n th gar.. nrc nlso di spiny 'Ll. Jn 1he ccn1 cr of th e west d c1 s i lc.2 ln t h ' or igin al :l si n of lh c Gurdn cr Mu seum , wn ll hm gs John Snrg ' nl 's portrait o( hml es thi s roon DJ d tl • Blu e oom lay o n th main ac ss to Lo ' fn cr - violin isl, omposer, nnd lose th , Mu si Roon ( !Cl. B), wh cr Isal ell a h l ] o n cets (ri •nd o( urdn er - pnin1 'd fll I he mu seum in r9 3. pposit is ~ d gnr D 'gn s's por1rnit an :l fe sl i n Is from 19 t T9T 4 . o( Mndnme auj lin , a dnn ' r m1d a tress, A11 nkcJ by t wo 1:-m d s apes by Jnmes M N ' ill W hi srl r. h ' pninrings arc posi1-ioncd in unor1hodox (n shi on : m1h r 1-h nn cnt rd on n line, 1hey ;1re :-1ligncd wi 1h th , part ' rn o( I he rl h yell ow si11 hun g on the wn 11.



11. ~ l111> IL H.1 \il l\\ di 1lw 0 111d1 w 1 tv l11w 11m , llJl •l ltvl,111 ll)JO'i l l )1 •\\ll lll 1>l1t1d 111 ll)l .j, 1lw l> jlf\Ll' \\'<I I> d1 v 1d11d 1111 11 IWI\ 111\i• I• , 1h1 h11>1 1l1h1 r h~1- 11m 1 n g


ti pu111 ,- h

C l 11 1 1> 1 1~ 1 , i\W 1>l'1-1 >11d 1lw l 111wo11 y R1H1111

1>, Y1 ·ll11w R1 H1rn, 11.1 1•;, w 11h pu 1n1111 g 0 hy I) g>11>, \ ' l11 , il1 •1, ,rnd I\ 11111 1>1>1; IM,m

200,11 I


I ( '.11 11 1 19!'>, 11

j t)I)

) Wdl .nd '> ,.,11 .. li ,11 1, \11 ~


1, l1J\\ i "'>111 "''Lil k d

111 1111\ !'J l 1q 11 \\11 1k M11 111 'd \\ t1 h l11\\ H\ tl H hl w·dL 1\1111 \H

\ P tkl I PP ll\




tn1n c d oor..


Yellow Room


C HEST OF DRAWERS (CASSETTONE) Composed of fo ur drawers, this chest of d rawe rs


is et on fee t carved with volutes and flowers at

PA INTED PI NE, 87 x 94 x 51.3 CM

the center; the rear feet are imple brackets. It is framed by fl at moldings. The drawer fronts are pa inted with landscapes , while the sides are painted wit h a sa iling hip, and a ga lleon near the coast (FIGS. A, B).

A cassettone of the sa me size a nd style, pa inted in nea rly identi-

The wave motif in the cornice supporting the top ind icates that

ca l ma nner, belonged to Ca rlo Ga mba G hiselli (1 870- 1963) of Flor-

this piece was made in northern Italy.

ence (FIG. D). G iven the highly specialized ch a racteristics sh ared by

The case is made entirely of white pine a nd is painted black, ex-

the two chests, they a re very likely a pair.

cept fo r the landsca pes and ea cape . Despite the hesitations of the 1935 catalogue, which considered it nineteenth century, the piece

Provenance : Unknown. Recorded in the Yellow Room, 1926 [Marr

dates from the early eighteenth century, although some of the mold-


ings have been replaced and the fee t may have been added late r.

Literature: G a rdner cat. 1935, p. 17 [19th century]. G ardner cat.

The iro n locks are origina l. The paintings a re in a style contempo-

1997, p. 17.

ra ry with the chest of d rawers. Beneath the paint layers on the si.:les


ca n be seen an underpainted pattern of volu tes and foliage, which may ind icate that older wood panels were re-used ; the e pentimenti do not seem to indicate that the paintings were added to this piece of furniture significa ntly later than it was made.

Yellow Room


Left side of the chest of drawers

s. Right side of the chest of drawers c. Frn3 o. C hest of drawers sold at Pandolfini , Florence, 6 October 20 0 9 (lot 2 7 1 )

Yellow Room

13. SETTEE AND TWO ARMC HAIRS (DIVANO E COPPIA DI POLTRONE) Carved in walnut a nd with ca ned seats a nd


backs, the settee and two armch a irs have cur ved


legs with tapering fee t and crest ra ils carved with

SETTEE: 84.4 x 168.5 x 60 CM

fo liage and flowers. Tape red feet upport curved ARMCHA IRS: CA. 88J x 57.9 x 48.2 CM legs that are carved at the top with fo liage motifs. U ndulating apron s h ave a grooved fra me and a leaf motif at the center. The curved arms and upport h ave fl ared ba nds and fi nials carved with cuspidate flowers. The back of t he ettee h as a !es accentu ated cur vature than seen in the armcha irs.

with sma ll blocks of wa lnut - a technique common in Fra nce a nd avoy, but ra re in t he rest Ita ly. O n the other h and, the sh ape of the arms is atypica l of French ch a irs. It i plausible to ass ign the

It is difficult to establish with certa inty where this suite was

pieces to Parma, which wa strongly influenced by France. 1 Wooden

made, since this French style of furniture was widely d isseminated

furni t ure from Pa rma often bear a strong resemblance to French

th roughout Europe. Certain fea tures po int to an or igin in the

prov incia l types.

French prov ince or neighboring regions. For example, t he knotting

O ld ho les in the aprons and seats show that t he suite was at one

of the cane on the underside of the seat and on the back is cove ed

po int in it history imprope rly upho lstered o r ca ned, in a method

I. This is the suggestion of A Iva r Gonz~ lez- Pa l aci os.

Yellow Room

quite different from the original: holes were made in the tops of the seat frame and in the apron . The eats and backs are now ca ned in the original fas hion. This suite of a ettee and two armchairs, plus eight side chair

Provenance: Purchased (with cat. 14) from Moise Dalla Torre, Venice, in September 1899 fo r 450 lire. The settee was used in th first Music Room of the Ga rdner Museum where it was photographed in 1914 (F IG. p. 140). It was placed in the Yellow Room in 1915 p. 61). The armchairs were presumably al o in the Yellow

(next entry), was acquired as a group from Moise Dalla Torre, Ven-

(F IG.

ice, in September 1899 probably for 450 lire. 2 The first invoice f l September, with the price of 650 lire, describes them as "r Soffa legno di noce e canna d' India; 8 Sedie do.; 2 Poltroncine do."

Roo m by th n. Literature: Ga rdner cat. 1935, p. 23 [Ita li an, lSt half of t he 19th century]. Gardner cat. 1997, p. 16. F1 e5


2. Shipping list by Moise Da lla To rre dated 26 September 1899, which may have artifically lower prices to avoid fu ll customs charges. There is no stamped receipt for t he gro up.

Yellow Room

EIGHT SIDE CHAIRS (SEOIE) Although ve r y close in style and date to the


previous set of a settee and two armcha irs, these

WALNUT AND CANE, CA. 80.2 x 48.3 x 4r.2 M

side cha ir a r di tinct a nd appea r to h ave been made by a separate workshop to match the other pieces. The centra l orna ment on the apron differs from the one o n armcha irs, fo r exa mple. The

chairs were acq uired from the same source as t he remain-

in 1915 (FIG. p. 61).

der, and have long been together, a they were improperly upholstered

Literat ure: See prev io us entr y.

in the same fas hion in the nineteenth century. From aro und 1915 to


1926, five of the side cha irs were in the Yellow Room. The three other chairs were in the Vatichino, a small anteroom just off the ma in entrance of the museum ; the e were placed in storage in 1960.


Provenance: See prev ious entry. Photographed in the Yellow Room



Sacri sty Benches in North C loister and Main Entra nce, i 903 [Marr 7477]

Courtya rd from the North C loister, 1902 [M arr 5391]

Main Entrance and North Cloister

15. SACR ISTY BENC HES (PANCHE DA SACREST IA) T hese h igh-back ben ch es, carved in wa lnut, CENTRAL h ALY, EARLY 17TH CENTURY were made for a sacristy, ch apter house, or a con- WALNUT fra terni ty. They con sist of long bench es resting


on brackets, backed by tall pa nels. The bracket


supports, a rra nged in pa irs, are carved with co- M AIN ENTRANCE ARE 222 AND 180 CM WIDE. TH E SECTION ON TH E WEST WALL IS 226 CM rollas, ch a in ' and volutes. The spalliere, or back


pa nels, are punctuated by pairs of fluted pilas ters that are a ligned above the brackets, an d topped with capita ls ca rved wit h flowers and scrolls. Between the pilas ters

by ornamented pilasters that extend to arms (FIG. B). The support-

a re pa nels fra med by molding. A cornice runs acros the top.

ing brackets are a lso more elaborate, h aving masks and claw feet

The ben ches were di vided into fi ve section s to be arranged in

(FIG. c) , whereas the other brackets a re more simply decorated.

the ma in entrance h all of the Gard ner Museum and in t he adj acent cloister (see plan , p. 43). The re-pur posing of the furnit ure h as n e-


Proven an ce: Insta lled in the Ma in Entrance and No rth C loister

cessitated the replacement of severa l elements, includ ing consoles

in 1902.

and capita ls, as well as th e addit ion of bases and supporting st ruc-

Literature: Ga rdner cat . 1903, p. 3 ["The o ld wooden seats are Ita l-

tures so th at the benches can be used . The section of bench es on

ian"]. Ga rdner cat. 1935, pp. 41 , 64 [r6th centur y]. G ardner cat .

t he west wa ll of the entrance d iffe rs significantly from th e other . It

1997, p. 28.

h as a centra l seat (residenza ) surmounted by a pediment and fr amed

F4w r

Main Entrance and North Cloister



Section of benches in the North C loister

B. Seat and pediment on the west wa ll of the Museum Entrance. The arms have been removed because of their fragilit y (see p. 67 ).

c. De ta ii of bracket

Macknif!ht Room


Macknight Room

In 1915, the dividing wall was removed to create a larger single space. Isabella Gardner h ad acquired a large number of landscape watercolors by the Boston artist Dodge suite with a sitting room, bedroom , and bath (plan on p. 43, no. 5). M att Prich ard, a Briton working at the Macknight (1860- 1950) and these were hung in the room; there are eleven there today. 3 Museum of Fine A rts, lived h ere in the summer and au# In November of 1915, the new Macknight tumn of 1902 , before Fenway Cou rt open ed .1 John Sar# Room was open to visitors for the first time gent also stayed in the room s in Februar y and M arch ( FIG. A) . Local newspapers, always attentive to ch anges and additions to the Gardner 1903 when he used the Gothic Room as a studio. 2 Museum, praised the new display. 4 In 1917, increased taxes because of World War I forced Gardner to economize. She did not move to her house in Brookline, as was her h abit, but stayed in a few rooms at Fenway Court. The Macknight Room became her sitting room. "I sh all eat in the cloister. I think it will all be cool enough, and it will make a money difference."s After suffering a stroke in 1919, she used the Macknight Room even more frequently. John Sargent portrayed her here in a haunting watercolor (FIG. B) .6 Shortly before her death, she dictated a letter to Bernard and Mary Berenson , "I am as well as usual, and in the afternoon come down in the Macknight Room, which I fa ncy for a summer room, it being so low down it must be cool." 7 The eclectic obj ects and furnishings of the room readily reveal that it was regularly used by Isabella Gardner and later by the museum's first director, Morris Carter - the only gallery so employed in the museum.8 An abundance of souvenirs fill the desks and cabinets.

JusT OFF THE MAIN ENTRANCE OF THE MUSEUM, this room was originally built as a guest

I. Ca rter 1925, p. 195: "In July, he moved into the li ttle apa rtment on the fi rst floor of Fenway

ourt, wh ich he

casion was t he opening of anoth er new room to public

occupi ed throughout the summer and autu mn."

view - t he 'Mackn igh t Room,' na med in honor of t he

2. Sa rge nt wrote on W hi te House statio nery to Ga rdner

Cape Cod lum ina rist, and conta ini ng a gro up of h is

in Februa ry 1903: "Hadn't I better first spend my pro m-

br ill ia nt watercolors. The room is just at t he ri gh t of

ised few days wit h the Sea rs and have that off my mi nd,

t he ma in entrance

before taking up my delightful q ua rters at the Pa lazzo"

now been accessible to the public. It is a sma ll ish room


t he building, a nd it has not befo re

Later: "Th is is to brea k it ge ntl y to yo u t hat I am a rri v-

and occupies the northeast corne r of t he gro und fl oor."

ing before lunch time thi s morni ng, preceded by tra ins of baggage."

A lso Boston Daily Globe, 23 N ovem ber, p. 20.

3. Ca rter 1925, p. 242, descri bes t he maki ng of the room

602. Her guesLbook fo r t he peri od is inscribed : "Fenway

a nd says th at Ga rd ner ca lled it t he Mac kn ight Room.

Court - a ll S ummer 19 17 - From ti me to t ime fr ie nds in

5. G ard ner to Berenson, 18 May 19 17; Had ley 1987, p.

T he room is nor mentioned in the cata logues published

the C loister" [v. l. b./4.25, fo l. 51J.

d uri ng Ga rdner's lifetime. T he first cata logue (Ga rdner

6. Carter 1925, p. 242: "after she beca me an inva lid, it was

cat. earl y 1925, p. 3) after Ga rdner's dea th in 1924 ca lls

her downsta ir sirr ing-room." O n p. 250, he reports th at

t he room the di rector's offi ce. The ed it ion of November 1925, p. 4, ca lls it the Mac kn ight Room.

Sa rgent's wa tercolor was done in th e Macknight Room.

4. A newspaper clipping preserved in Ga rd ner's fil es reads: "New Mackn ight Room / Fenway

7. Ga rd ner to Bern a rd a nd Ma ry Berenson , 11 June 1924 ; Had ley 1987, p. 667.

ourt Extends

8. Isabella Stewart Gardner Mu seum : Annual Report

Its Visitors Privileges/ First Openi ng S ince Las t Easter,

(1932), p. 25: Morr is Ca rter ind icates th at he moved o ut

fo r Pu blic I Room Na med fo r Lu mina rist of Cape


of t he Mac kn ight Room, wh ic h h e h ad been using as

/ Gro up of Hi s Wa tercolors A re in It. Whe n Fenway

an offi ce. Carter 1964, pp. 28-29, descri bed the suite,

f. r t he

noting th at the adj ace nt space, t he Va rich ino , could be a second bed room.

Courc was thrown open to visitors thi s noon, first t ime since

lase Eas ter, the sa lient fea ture of the oc~

Macknight Room



Macknight Room in 1916 with cat. 64 [Marr 20384]

B. Joh n S. Sargent, Isabella Stewart Gardner in White, 1922. Watercolor on paper

Ma cl<night /foam

16. COMMODE (COM OR CASSETTONE) This chest of draw rs, also ca lled a commode


(li tera lly "convenient" in French) , embodies the characteri tic of the Venetia n Rococo aro und

PA INTED AND VARN ISHED PINE, 75 .7 x 126.8 x 57.5 CM

the middle of the eighteenth century. O ne of the be t xa mples of Venetia n craft manship in t he Gardner Museum, it hows the stro ng influence of French tyle. The

notably by Tho mas C hippendale who in 1754 published designs

front and sides of the piece gracefull y swell upward a nd outwa rd in bombe fas hion.

described as "French commode tables." 4 The Magazzino di mobilia,

This flow ing movement ex tends througho ut the top, drawe r

of table height in French sty le. 5 Como is also used in late eighteenth-

fronts, kirts , and cabriole legs. Moldings delicately ca rved with fo li age and hell motifs enha nce the sinuous lines. The chest is also

published in Flo rence in 1797, uses the term comod fo r a cassettone century Ita ly, but remains more unusual th a n the related comodino. This Venetian commode differs from French models by the tech-

rema rkable fo r its painted decorations of blue, green, a nd gold set

nique of its decora tion : the moldings along the edges of the skirt and

aga in t a yellow ground . These leafy tendrils and flowers comple-

the drawer fronts are ca rved directly in the surrounding wood, rather

ment the decorative moldings. The wooden top is painted in imitation of veined ma rble.

than applied in gilded metal. The high quality of the commode at-

Eighteenth-century Venet ia n furniture with a glossy coating

tests to makers who skillfully combined modest materials uch as soft woods, paint, and va rnish, to produce a rich overall effect.

applied over painted decoratio n i often described as lacca, or lac-

The commode is made in white pine (abete bianco) . The metal

quered. However, this is more properly termed japa nning because it

fittings a re bra s or bronze a nd were probably gilded. The iron

i a coating mea nt to imitate true A sian lacquer, or urushi. Techni-

locks were add ed late r. The drawer runners a re of so mewhat un-

ca l analysis of this commode indicates that the effect was produced

usual de ign . The upper side of the drawers h ave a cut-out trough

by a copal and Venice turpentine, both natural resin , applied over

which function as a runne r. The sa me sy tem is emp loyed in

the painted urface. 1 Natural res in s di olved in alcohol or oil were

eighteenth-century French furniture (a nd ma ny mode rn drawers).

typica l ingredients in European japa nning va rnishes in th eigh-

The drawers a re lined in linen , which was probab ly added in the nineteenth century.

teenth century. 2 The varni h used here was very likely somewha t yellow when first applied and it h as darkened over time, giving the underlying design a mo re golden tone while also causing the leaves and tendril to appea r deeper green . This chest of drawers repre ents a distinctive stage of Venetian

Provena nce: It i not known how Isa bella Ga rdner acquired the commode.6 It was in the Music Room of Green Hill in the late 1890

(FIG. p. 79). It is no t seen in the Macknight Room in 1916 p. 73). Macknight Room by 1926.

furniture. Until the 1730s, furniture-ma kers in Venice favo red chi-

(FI G.

noiserie (reflected in works such as the gig chair, cat. 99). The grace-

Literature : Gardner cat. 1935, pp. 64-65. Gardner cat. 1997, p. 40. F. _ Ca ldera i in Sarasota and Memphis 2009, no. 37. Fus14

ful cur ving fo rms a nd delicate ca rvi ng of the Rococo soon replaced the Asian-insp ired fa hion. In eighteenth-century Ita ly, chests of drawers li ke this could be called cassettone or coma. The latter term is derived from the French commode, in u e by 1708, which describes a chest of drawers of the height of a table, often raised on short legs. 3 The fo rm beca me popular in France in the ea rl y eighteenth century, a chest of drawers with a table top bei ng considered a "conv nient" combinatio n of 74

furniture fo rm . The fo rm was adopted by Engli sh furniture-makers,

l. Technica l a na lys is condu cted in 2003 shows t hat t he

2. Fo r japanning tech niques, see Do rge an<l Howlett

outermos t coa tin g is compri sed of copal resin and V en,

refl ectog rap hy

1998, p. 331; Klih lenthal 2000, pp. 442, 456. 3. Reyn i ~s 1987, pp. 492-96. 4. C hippenda le 1754, pis. 43- 48. See a lso Metro po litan 2006, p. 146. 5. Magazz ino 1796, p. xv. fi g. 24. For t he use of "comb" a nd "comodino" see Battaglia 196 !, vol. 3, p. 379.

(Fr!R). microspectromet ry, a nd gas chroma tog raphy/ mass spectrometr y.

6. Perh aps the piece purchased from Domen ico Lorenzetti, Ve nice. 1892 for 70 lire.

ice tu rpentine, materi als typi ca l of e ighteenth,centur y

japa nning. Ana ly is condu cted by Ri ch ard Newman , Museum of Fine A rts, Boston . Ana lytica l methods included: polari zed microscopy, croprobe, Fouri er路 tr ansfor m

electron, bea m mi路


Macknigh1 Room


Ma cknight Room

MI RROR (SPECC HI ERA) This mirro r fram dinaril y fin

i remarkable fo r its ex t rao r- VEN ICE, LAST QUA RTER OF TH E 18TH CENTU RY

and inventive decoratio n. The


rectangular opening has been enriched with a ca rved bead and reel pattern ; this is ur ro unded by a imple reverse cyma, pa inted green and dged with finely xecuted laurel leave . Encompass ing that mold-

The mir ro r a nd the side table (see nex t entry) a re imila r enough

ing is yet a noth r of leafy labretto ca llop ; it is bo unded by a simple

to indicate that they o riginated from the sa me decorative ensemble,

flat band of gilded mo ld ing. Thi in tum fo rms th base fo r the

if not actua lly mea nt to be insta lled together. Jack G a rdner bought

rich fi ligree-like decoration of leafy flowered a nd frui ted branches,

them a a set in 1892 a nd they were insta lled together in the Music

which, intertwined with ruffling ribbons, ripple and wirl aro und

Room at G reen Hill, together with a great dea l of Mr . G ardner'

the frame. At top center, these element ex tend upward s - the rib-

eighteent h-century furniture, where they were photographed in the

bon knotting them elves into a bow with a rose tte - to sur ro und an ova l ca rtouche.

late 1890s (FIG. p. 79). In her list of obj ects to be moved to the

Framed by a beaded, tylized sunbur t, the ca rto uche shows a

Venetia n mir ror), with the ta ble under it, that goes with it." They

class ica l relief of a wo ma n standing before a sma ll, ga rla nded a lta r.

were first placed in the Blue Room and later moved to the Macknight Room.1

With her left ha nd she ra ises a laurel wrea th, while her right ho lds

museum, Isa bella G ardner described them as "one sma ller one [old

what may be a scept r; she ge tures towa rd s a c ui rass a nd helme t. he is p rhaps a per onifi ca tion of peace, o r a fi gure ho noring a

Provenance: Together with cat. 18, purchased by Jack G ardner

wa rrior' grave. A imilar frame sur ro und s a ca meo-like low relief

fro m Consiglio Ricchetti in July 1892 fo r 800 lire [J. G ardner diary :

of a head at the bo tto m edge of the mirror. Th G reco-Roma n flavo r of these cenes is echoed by the fo ur po lygo n a l plaqu es , each

"Looking glas & table green, 800"). The mirror and ide table were in ta iled in the Mu ic Room at Green Hill. The two pieces were in

edged with ribbo n ca rving, that o rna ment the fra me's co m ers.

the mu eum's Blue Room by 1915 and then moved to the Macknight

These conta in low-re li f bucran ia (ox kulls) set aga inst dimpled,

Room the fo llowing yea r (FIG. p. 73) .

diapered fi elds (F IG. ). These classica l references are ta ken up by

Literature: Gardner cat. 1935 , p. 68 [Venetia n?). G a rdner cat. 1997, pp. 64- 65 .

the sma ll laurel wreath, bow-topped plaqu e ma rking the left a nd right sid es of the frame. Thes depict a centaur a nd a siren (with two ta ils), re pectively. The rich and inventive decoration of the fra me suggests debt t both the Rococo and N eoclass ica l movement . The ve ry combin atio n of these element , as well as the fra me's bo ld ly energeti c o utline, might ca ll into qu estion whether the mirro r is Ita lia n . However, it i likely that the mirror and its associated ta ble were produced in Venice. A few ca rved element of the frame are now missing. In additio n, the lack of wear in the gilding indicates that these areas may have been re ta red. In contrast, the fine craquelure in the green pa int sugge t that these urfaces a re untouch d and origina l.

I. Blue Room: Ma rr 20044 of I915.


Ma cknight Room


MaclmighL Room

18. JOE TABLE (TAVOLO DA MURO) tyli stica ll y thi s table blend element of Rococo VEN ICE, LAST QUA RTER OF THE 18T H ENTURY and Neoclass icism, mu h li ke the mirror th at ac- PA INTED AND ILDED WALNUT, 90 x I39.2 x 64.7 CM compani s it ( AT. r7). The relati vely im pl line of the table' kirt are reli ev cl by a gild cl band of bead ing at the lowe t l vel. Above thi s i a plain fri ze, topped by The table i very close in style - though not identica l - to the mirror a gil d cl band of laurel leave and fruit on a stippled ground . At its that now hangs above it. Both pieces are richly and imaginatively nter is an ova l roca ille ca rtouche. Immedi ately above is a green carved with Rococo and Neoclass ica l elem nts, and suffi ciently cy ma rabb t that en lose a wooden top. A small ova l roca il le frame, simil ar in ornamentati on and color to indicate that both must have et off by undu lating ribbons, orn aments the kirt. This is ca rved come from th ame decorative sch me, even if the table was not like an antique am o with a profi le bu t of a crow n d, b arded mea nt to be placed under the mirror. Gardner purchased the pieces man. The ca rto uch corre pond to similar element on the mirro r together. h often covered tabl s with tex tiles, and placed a piece that hangs above it. Th e table is supported by fo ur cabriole leg ; of yell ow Ind ian silk on it in the i92os. Paul Manship' Diana is these abut th - kirt' b ad and ba lu ter molding rather than fl wing recorded on the side table in 1926, although Gardner had the scu lpintegra ll y into it. Th knees ar orn amented with gilded ca rving ture in the Dutch Ro m in i 922.1 of int rtw ining ribb ns that extend from ca rved bows on the frieze. The table lack it original top; a wooden replacement is now The inn -r sides of the legs ar marked along th eir I ngth with a set into the ra bb t. Portions of the rabbet have been retouched and simpl - molding that curve into volut at the fe t and mor elaborate, lea fy ca rvings at top. The green color wa ace mpli heel by an applicat i n of blue pain t that was then cover d by a relatively thick layer of yellowtonecl va rni h, in th mann r of japanning d cribed fo r the che t of drawer ( AT. i6).

I. M.irr 24326. It ;, r ossihlc t hat M<rn; h1r'> ;culrturc wa .s moved ro 1hL路 Mac kni ght Room hy Morri.s Ca rter

mt her rh an hy L. . abcl la (');ndncr.

th adj acent ca rv ing has been partially re-gild d. There are modern reinfi rcement along the j ins on all fo ur legs; the back ra il is also a recent replacement. Prov nance: ee previous entry. Literatur : Ga rdner cat. 1997, p. 43 [Venetian, 18th ce ntury]. Fr1w6

Macknight Room


Music Room of G ree n Hill , ca. 1900 [M a rr 2240 ] . Th e mirror a nd table ca n be see n on rh left wa ll. Abo in rhe room a rc car. 57, 59, 11 7, 55, 16, a nd 58.

Macknight Room

DES K WITH TWO SID E CABINETS (SCRIVA NIA CON DUE MOBIL! DA APPOGGIO) The cent ra l des k is outfitted with two doors, a


drawer, and a sliding ex tension made of wa lnut. PA INTED WALNUT AND PINE It is accompan ied by two side cabinets, each with

DESK: 72 x 89.1 x 43 .4 CM; Rl GHT CAB INET: 72.2 x 30.5 x 28.8 CM; LEFT CABINET: 72.2 x

ingle doors. All three pieces are pa inted with 33 .6 x 30.8 CM a sky blue ground , on which flora l motifs, ribbons with bows, and birds have been added. The pieces are suppo rted on projecting fra mes that rest on bracket feet. The tops a re painted in fa ux green a nd blue marble (FIG. ). The cabinets of the desk each have one shelf while

Provenance: Probably purchased by Jack G ardner from Domenico

the two side cabinets each have three shelves.

Lorenzetti, Venice, in September 1892 for 150 lire [diary: "Writing

This type of sma ll desk with associated side cabinets, a l o ca lled

24324] .

palazzi or countr y villas in the Veneto du ri ng t he eighteen th a nd

Literature: G eneral cat. 1935 , p. 70 [Venetian ?, 19th century]. Gard-

nineteenth centuries. The delicate pa lette and decoration , together

ner cat. 1997, p. 45 .

with the diminutive size, suggest that the suite was made fo r a child


or a woman . The decorative paint is in good condition, although there are isolated areas of restoration. The pa inted surface appea rs to h ave been cleaned prev iously, when the original t inted va rnish was re-

moved. The locks appear to be original.


table & 2 sma ll cabinets/ pa inted"]. Macknight Room, 1926 [Marr

porta-carte (paper carriers), could be found in the furni shings of

Macknight Room


M aclm iglu !loom

20 .

Th is recl ining armc h a ir res ts o n fo ur fluted


legs , circ ula r in c ross-sectio n; the back legs a rc

C HERHY, 96.5 x 87 x 78 CM [UPRIGHT]

a ngled while the fro nt o nes arc mo unted o n casto rs. Above the legs

n the ra il a re recta ngula r

plaqu es ca rved with stylized leaves . The a rms a nd the back, whic h ge ntly bow o utwa rd s, are fo rm cl by series of

O n the p ro pe r le ft side is a sma ll me ta l brac ke t, poss ibly to at-

ve rti ca l posts conta ined within a fra me. The ba k ca n be reclined

ta h a nothe r piece of furniture suc h as a fo t stoo l. A ccording to

f two saw-toothed metci l la tc hes

Mo rris Cci rte r, th - first directo r o f the museum, Isabella G a rdne r

to diffe re nt pos itio ns by meci ns

tha t hook o nto a kno b attached to the a rms. The a rmc h a ir now h a -

ca !led this "the G o ldo ni c ha ir." 1

fi ve m de rn cushio ns. This type of a rmc ha ir is distinctive beca use fit s la rge dime n-

Prove na nce : Mac knight Roo m, 1926 [Ma rr 24324].

sio ns a ncl its mixture o f styles . The lowe r sectio n of the c ha ir is

Lite rature : Gardne r ca t. 1935, p. 70 [No rth Ital ia n , rst h alf of 19th

c recited in the Neoclassica l sty le preva le nt in the Vene to in the la te

century]. Gcirdne r cat. 1997, p. 45 .

eightee nth ce ntury, whi le the upp -r pa rt of the c h a ir reflects a new

Fn n7

a rtistic la ngucige develo pin g in Vie nna a t the scim e t ime .

1. l& N.



2I. TILT-TOP TABLE (TAVOLO) The turned ba luster support rests o n t hree








scrolls; this kind of pedesta l is some times ca lled "pilla r-and-scroll." The to p is oval in form, with a sca lloped edge that bears a molding. The table is

painted with a green gro und . A la rge bunch of flowers a nd fo liage is pa inted in the center, sur ro unded by eight smaller bouquets enmeshed in a patte rn of mo nochromatic crollwo rk. The scroll legs a re decorated with a rust-colo red pattern. The top of the table is hinged to the pi lla r support, a llow ing the top to be locked in a vertica l positio n , thereby sav ing space

Proven a nce: Possibly purch ased fro m Mo ise Da lla Torre, Venice, in

when not in use. Bes ides being easily mova ble, such tables could

Septe mber 1897 for 160 lire ["tavolo ova le dipinto"] ; see cat.

serve many differe nt functio n s. Ca lled "tilt-top" o r "tip-top" tables,

M acknigh t Room, 1926 [Ma rr 24325]

the fo rm origin ated in no rthe rn Europe. Features suc h a the scal-

Literature: Ga rdner cat . 1935, p. 67 ["tip-top table"]. Ga rd ne r cat.

loped edge a nd the tripod support a re commo nly associated with

1997, p. 42 .

the type. On the othe r h a nd, the painted a nd varnished decoration

Fn s28

is distinc tly Vene tia n . Anothe r example is in t h e Veron ese Room (CAT. lOI) .


Ma cknighr Room


NIGHTSTAND (COMOD LNO) This well-m ade chest of drawers, con sisting of


two drawe rs, was probably produced in a sm a ll


cente r in Lazio o r Tusca ny. It is supported by 74 .2 x 53 x 31.5 CM gently curved legs a nd a n undulating apron. While the basic for m is qu ite simple, the pattern of inla id decoratio n sh ows a certa in sophisticatio n . M a hoga ny veneer covers a struc ture of popla r. An intricate pattern of repeating

Proven a nce: In the Lo ng Ga llery by l9IO [Mar r 16537], the Blue

dia mo nds h as been c reated o n the fro nt, sides, a nd top with inlays

Room in 1915 [Ma rr 20043], a nd the M acknight Room by 1926

of rosewood a nd c itro nnie r; severa l piece of in lay a re now miss ing.

[Ma rr 24324] .

The two drawers o nce h ad two h a ndles each , as filled h o les indicate.

Literature: Gard ner cat. 1935, p. 72 . Gardner cat. 1997, p. 46.

The comodino is o ne of the few pieces of furniture reco rded


in three diffe rent ga lle ries of the Ga rdner Museum, h aving bee n placed in the Lo ng Ga llery, Blue Room , a nd M acknight Room .


TOILETTE MIRROR (SPECCHIO DA TOILETTE) The mir ror is entirely painted with a sky blue


ground with addition s of flowering vines a nd, in


the pediment, two putti on a rock. The fra me, which is convex at the center, is edged with gilded carvings decorated with fretwork in the sh ape of curl , volutes, a nd curved feet. Vario us repairs a nd repaintings a re evident; the mir rored glass is no t original. Prove na nce : Macknight Room by 1926 [Ma rr 24322]. Literature: Gard ne r cat. 1997, p. 48 [Lo uis XVI mir ror, Ita lia n] . Fue8

VENETIAN TRAY WITH TABLE BASE (VASSOIO CON SUPPORTO A TAVOLINO) The tray was made in Venice during the eigh- TRAY: VEN ICE, 2ND HALF OF THE l 8TH CENTURY: LENGTH 50 x WIDTH 35 CM teenth century. The top is painted with flowers, TABLE: EARLY 20TH CENTURY: 45 .5 x 47 x 33 .5 CM fo liage, a nd crollwork on a crea m ground, while the fra me, which is pierced a lo ng the shorter side , is pa inted green. The modem suppo rt in the fo rm of a small table adopts the decorative mo tifs fo und on the tray. Proven ance: Gerva is Ker sold the en emble to Sarah C h oate Sears, who gave it to I abella Gardner in 192r. 1 Macknight Room. Literature:

ardne r cat . 1935, p. 70 [entirely modem]. Ga rdner cat.

1997, p. 45 路 Fr rnl2

l. N ote by Morris C arter, 7 February 1930, rec rds that

a ra h Sears "thought the little table and tray we re bought from Ker, but was qu ite sure he <lid not ma ke chem."

Ma cknight Room

w .

·i !' ·"1,~-::r• '




• -






:::t· .



,_, rJr ..0


"'I , I






I" ~J

" '

1 r


,.. 1

-- ~-,_,...





a 0




.. A<






Pla n of the 2nd fl oor of the Ga rd ner Museum Second Floor Stair Hall , 1904


Second Floor Stair Hall North



This small credenza illust rates the popularity of Renaissa nce-style furniture in Italy during the second half of the nineteenth century, much of it prod uced fo r fo reign buyers. In addition to large-scale tables and sideboards, American homes required mailer obj ects fo r domestic use,


Wooo, 9r.8 x Sr x 49 .6


as demon trated by Isabella G ardner's purchases, like this small credenza fo r her Beacon Street home. The design and sca le of this cabinet is not a true Renaissa nce fo rm, but is derived from Renaissa nce prie-dieux, which are of the same sca le and general design. Disguised in the frieze of the credenza is a d rawer, whose ca rved decoration continues into the sur ro unding urfaces. Below is a cupboard with two doors, flanked by pilasters decorated with guil-

Provenance: In the Boudoir at 152 Beacon Street, ea rly 1880s [pho-

loches. The front is entirely ca rved with fo liage and architectu ra l

the east wall by 1910 [Marr 16535] . Second Floor Stair Hall. Literature: Gardner cat. 1935, p. 86 [1 6th-century style]. Ga rdner

motifs . The two knobs, consisting of head in seventeenth-century "bambocci" style, are carved as part of the doors. A blank armorial shield decorates the center of the drawer. O n the left side is a shield with three horizontal bands. O n the right is another with an unidentified coat of arm (FIG. ), which appea rs to be old wood reused for this credenza.

to]. Dutch Room, 1904 [Marr 9134] ; moved from the south wall to

cat. 1997, p. 52. F14e2

Room of


Rpom of Early Italian Paintings WHEN THE GARDNER MusEUM FIRST OPENED IN I 903, this gallery was called the Chinese Room (FIG.). It displayed Japanese screens, Chi~ nese silks, and a variety of Asian sculpture. 1 Isabella also included several paintings associated with Venice - Anders Zorn's portrait of her at the Palazzo Barbaro and Antonio Mancini's portrait of Jack Gardner, also painted in Venice, as well as additional works by those artists: Mancini's Standard Bearer of the Harvest Festival and Zorn's Omnibus. Even at this early st age, several pieces of Italian furniture adorned the room, some with an orientalizing flavor, such as the chairs paint~ ed with exotic figure s and a chinoiserie cabinet whose red surfaces imitate the appearance of Chinese lacquer (CATS. 32, 31). Other pieces, for example the Florentine intarsia doorway, had no apparent connection to Asia.

These Italian furnishings remained in the room even after Isabella Gardner entirely reconceived the space in 1914. Her growing collection of Renaissance paintings, which had been crowded into the Raphael Room or consigned to storage, needed display space, a requirement heightened by the acquisition in 1907 of a large fresco of Hercules by Piero della Francesca. The C hinese Room was therefore turned into the Room of Early Italian Paintings and filled with fourteenthand fifteenth-century paintings. A work by Fra Angelico and cassone paintings by Pesellino were moved here from the Raphael Room. The Florentine doorway now made an ideal entrance to the gallery filled with paintings of the same date and origin.


l. Chong 2009, pp. 28-30; Guth 2009, pp. 62-64.

C hinese Room in 1903 with cats. 28, 32, 7 1, and 26 [M a rr 7450]

Room of Early Italian Paintings


wooden doorway formed t he inner en- FLORENCE, EARLY l 6T H CENTU RY

tra nce to t he Pa lazzo Borgherini in Florence, WALNUT, WITH INLAYS OF VARIOUS WOODS, IRON; OVERALL: 302 x 261 CM; DOOR: 231 x begun in 1507 under the d irection of Baccio d'A gno lo.


127.2 x 7.9 CM

With a n impos ing cornice and

pilas ters, a nd elaborately decorated with inta rsia, the door is a n impress ive exa mple of a rly sixteenth-century cabinetry. Pilasters fl ank the door at two sides. The pa nels set to the left

this doorway ca me fro m the Pa lazzo Borgherini in the Borgo Santi

a nd right of the pila ters are a lso hinged, so that the entire doorway

Aposto li and further repo rted that it was designed by Benedetto da

could swing open to a llow large obj ects to pass th rough (FIG. A).2

Rovezza no (1474-ca. 1554), accordil'.g to Giorgio Vasa ri .3 However,

Both door and frame are decorated with intarsia of va rious geo-

in his Lives of the Artists, Vasari says that Benedetto da Rovezzano

metric motifs. The fri eze is inla id with grote ques and fa ntas tica l

designed an elaborate chimney for the palace of Pierfrancesco Bor-

creatures in tendril scrolls, centered aro und styli zed la mps (FI G. n) .

gherini ; this is now in the Museo de! Ba rge llo, Florence. 4 Costantin i

A top the cornice i a newer piece of fini shed wood (abo ut 17 c m

may have confused Rovezza no with Baccio d'A gno lo (1462- 1543) ,

high) which supports an o ld bea m with iron spikes fo rmed as st yl-

the architect of the Pa lazzo Borgherini, who designed "ornaments

ized lilies. This t ype of decorated doorway was too delicate to be a

fo r doors" as well as mantles, in Vasa ri's report. 5 Baccio is a lso re-

street entrance, but was typica l of the second entrance encountered

sponsible fo r the famous "ca mera cassoni," commissioned by Salvi

when entering a Rena issa nce building. The more elaborate side of the doorway (now aligned north, towards the Room of Early Ita lia n

Borgherini in 1515 and decorated with pa intings by Pontormo, Andrea del Sa rto, and others. 6

Pa intings) has projecting cornices and overlapping mo lding , and

In 1750, the Pa lazzo Borgherini was sold to the Rosselli Del

must h ave originally been the ide facing o utwards in the pa lazzo. In his invo ice of 1897, the dea ler Emilio Costantini stated that

I. On the history of the Pa lazzo Borgherini-Rossell i Del Turco see Trotta 1992 with extensive documencation. 1

2. T he hinges a re on the south side of the door, facing the Second Floor Stair Hall. T here a re three hinges on the right side: one in the corn ice (fig. a) a nd two in the ma in sect ion ; there are two h inges on the main sect ion

on ly on the left side. The doorway would h ave swung in the sa me direction as the door. T he separation poin t


may have been between the east pil aster a nd t he door, but the sections are now attached. 3. Rece ipt dated 6 October 1897: "Porta con intarsi da a mbo i lati prove n ienre dal Palazzo Bolgherini in Be rgo S. Apostoli in Fi renze, o ra Palazzo del Turco. Questa porta fu a rch itettata da Benedetto da Rovezza no e citaro nelle istor ie di Giorgio Vasari."

4. Vasari 1568 (1966), vol. 4, p. 286: "un ca mino d i macigno c h'~ in ca a di Pierfrancesco Borgherini, dove sono di sua ma no intagliat i capitegli , fregi, et a Itri molti orn amenti straforati con dil igen za."

5. Vasari 1568 (1966), vol, 4, pp. 611- 12: "Diede a Pier Francesco Borgherini i disegn i della casa che fece in borgo ante Apostolo, et in quella con molta spesa fecc far gl'ornamenti delle porte, ca m ini bell issimi, e part ii colarmente fece per orn amento d'una ca mera cassoni di noce pien i di putti intagliati con somma diligenza.,'

6. Braham 1979. Nicoletta Pons in Trotta 1992, pp. 179-83.

Turco fa mily. A descendant, Antonio Rosselli Del Turco, carried out renovations that included di viding the ma in sa lone in half in

Room of Early Italian Paintings


Deta il of the south side with side hinges


Door and frame (from the north side)

c. Photograph of the doorway given by Emilio Costa ntini to Isabella Gardner in 1897. Written on the front and back of the photograph are the dimensions, 3 by 2.67 meters. o. Detail of frieze


Room of Early Italian Paintings

1895- 96. 7 Around this time, a new doorway of meta l a nd glass was

for transport on the S.S. Cephalonia on 18 January 1898 shows a

bu ilt in the entrance, but the basic structure of the entrance h all

va lue of only 2000 lire in order to reduce American duty. The ter-

was left unaltered

(FI G. E).

The stone a rchway in the pa lazzo is iden-

racotta relief by de Fondulis was much more expensive, at 23,600

tica l in width to the wooden doorway. 8 There is thus every reason

lire. Costa ntini wrote to Isabella Gardner: "we were obliged to send

to believe the dealer's report that I abella Gardner's doorway came

the goods away a little by little, and not through the ga lleries, as the

from the Palazzo Borgherini-Rosselli Del Turco. This is furt her con-

Director h ad already received from Rome the order to top the cases

firmed by the door to the sa lone on t he piano nobile, which pos esses

a nd not give the permission to let them out of the country. This,

very similar intarsia to the mu eum's doorway.9 Other architectural

becau e someone tried to get me in trouble, as they say that I ruin

features were sold from the palace at aro und this time: for example,

the commerce giving things away at such low prices, and spoil the best-pay ing customers." 13

in 1905, Herbert Horne purchased two small intarsia doors for 500 lire. 10

The inner core of the doo r consists of laminated softwood board that have been veneered on both sides with thick wa lnut

When Jack and Isa bella Gardner were in Florence in October

overlays; the e consist of two pieces joined vertically. Intarsia strips

1897, they vi ited Emilio Costa ntini a nd chose this door for their

of various patterns have been applied to the door. It h as often been

mu seum, in addition to a n important terracotta sculpture of the

repaired: the bottom ra il a nd some of the veneer have been replaced.

Deposition of Christ by Giovanni de Fondu lis, then attributed to Bartolomeo Bellano. 11 Costa ntini gave the Gardners a photograph

Provena nce: Made for the Palazzo Borgherini in the Borgo Santi

of the doorway with the meas urements written on the front and

Apostoli, Florence, ca. 1507. Purchased by Isabella Gardner from

c ).12

Emilio Costantini, Florence, in October 1897 for 5670 lire. 14

back, so it co uld be properly in tailed in the museum


The photograph shows the doorway essentially in its current

Installed in the C hinese Room of the museum in 1902

state, but without the iron spikes at the top, and with a male bu st

renamed the Room of Ea rly Ita lia n Paintings in 1914.

placed atop it. Irons fini als are t ypical of doorways a nd they may be original, but we re for so me reason left out of the photograph.

Literature: Gardner cat. 1903, p. 5. Gardner cat. 1935, p. 85. Gardner ca t. 1997, p. 52.

Doorways of this type were not normally decorated with busts;


this may h ave been added by the dea ler. The photograph shows that the woodwork was not significa ntly altered when it was installed in the Gardner Mu seum ; the dimen sion s written on the photograph refl ect its present size. Two hollow projecting walls were added onto the ma onry wa lls in the threshold between the econd Floor tair Hall a nd the Room of Ea rly Ita li an Paintings in order to accommodate the doorway. Gardner thus altered the a rchitecture of the passage to insta ll the doorway. The doorway co t 5670 lire, but the shipping invoice prepa red

7. Trotta 1992, p. 172. In 1750, three brothers, Gi ovan Antonio, Stefano, and Gi ro lamo di C hi arissimo Ros-


sell i Del Turco had bought the pa lace, a nnex , and facing ga rden from Borgherini famil y; Trotta 1992, p. 171. An inve ntory of the palazzo was drawn up in 1754 (ibid., pp. 184-88 ). 8. See histori ca l a nd current pla ns of the ground floor in Trotta 1992, p. 175, which show this width unch anged. 9. Trotta 1992, p. 178, fi g. lower left.

10. Pao lini 2002, p. 21. The doors were purchased from Antonio Rosselli Del Turco. Archi vio de lla Fondazione Herbert Percy Horne, Florence: K.l. l. , 23 December 1905.

11. Ga rdner ca t. 1977, no. 167, repr. 12. Written on the back by Jac k G a rdner: "Florence 1897 I Emilio Costantini ." 13. Costa ntini to G ardner, 12 March 1898. 14. The initia l price of 6000 lire was discounted on the invoice of 6 October 1897.

E. urrent state of the entra nce to the Palazzo Rosse lli Del Turco at Borgo Sa nti Apostoli , 19, Florence


p. 91);

Room of Early Italian Paintings

THREE RUS H-SEAT CHAIRS (SEDI E) These cha rming ch airs combine late Baroque



and Rococo details with a rustic simplicity. The

42 X 34路5 CM

elements of cosmopolitan sophistication suggest th at t hey were made in th e northern Veneta in the area near Tirol. The ch airs re t on simple straight leg , which a re ch amfered to give them an octagon al cross-section. The effect continues on the stiles, which bend gently back as they ri e to terminate in bold volutes. The crest rails are ma rked at their centers by simple, but deeply ca rved and gilded pa lmettes.

Proven ance: Poss ibly bought in 1906 from Achille Camerino,

Also gilded are the ch amfered edges of the scrolling frames that

Venice, fo r 45 lire.' Room of Early Italian Paintings, 1915 [Ma rr

fo rm the ch air backs. These areas a re enriched by simple channel-

20048]. Literature: Gard ner cat. 1935, p. 96 [Venetian] .

carving that curls into volutes. The cross piece between the legs repeats the design of the ch air


back. O riginally t he ch airs mu t h ave h ad scrolled apro n s, wh ich would h ave jo ined the decorative elements at the inner ides of the front legs


complete the undulating fr ames, as on the ch air

backs. In contrast, the side a nd back stretchers a re rather crudely sh aped. The ch airs were originally painted green as can be seen in some areas under the flaking dark paint. The rush seats probably date from the middle of the nineteenth century; the nowlost front aprons may h ave been removed when the caned seats were added.


l. Accordi ng

to Gardner cat. 1935, p. 96. There is a rece ipt from Camerino dared September 1906 which

simply says, "3 sed ie," 45 lire.

Room of Early I tali an Paintings

Carved with heavy, sculptu ra l fo rms, this cassone


has a strong architectonic presence. At the two WALNUT, 64.6 x 173路5 x 60 CM ends of the front, winged putti, sculpted almost entirely in the round, function as telamons to support a dentil course and a simple, molded top. Although the 1935 catalogue questioned the authenticity of In the center, another putto holds a coat of arms. Set between the three sculpted figures and framed by a succession of volutes of dif- this cassone, ca refu l exa mination reveals that it is almost entirely ferent sizes are two reliefs. To the left is a rather staid image of Leda of the late sixteenth century. The carving on the front is typical and the Swan. This is balanced on the right by a relief of Apollo

of late Mannerism in central Italy.4 Some of the surfaces have been

who holds aloft an orb, while behind him appears the sun. A deeply carved toru molding, ornamented with bellflowers and quatrefoil

re-stained. The iron hinges of the lid and the left rear foot are replacements.

blossoms set in ova ls, compri ses the base. This extends around the plain, paneled sides of the chest whose severity is relieved only by

It is not known how Isabella G ardner acquired the cassone. She placed it in the entrance hall of her house on Beacon Street by

simple handles. The front-facing fee t are richly ornamental, taking the fo rm of grotesque male masks surro unded by volutes. The arms are those of the Vitelleschi family of Tarquinia and Rome.1 The cassone may be connected with the Palazzo Vitelleschi

the later 1890s (FIG. 8 on p. 19). When the museum first opened in 1903, it was installed in the C hinese Room under a six-fo ld Japanese

in Tarquinia (Lazio) begun around 1436 and 1439 fo r Cardinal Giovanni Vitelleschi. 2 The fa mily moved to Rome in the seven-

Provenance: Entrance hall of 152 Beacon Street, ca. 1899. Chinese

teenth cent ury and the palazzo itself was sold in 1892; it is now the Museo Nazionale Etrusco. Another cassone from the sa me workshop was sold in Paris in 1982 (F!G. ).3 Like the G ardner Museum's

screen, and draped with a Japanese tex tile [Marr 7450].

Room, 1903. Literature: G ardner cat. 1935, p. 89 [modem imitation] . G ardner cat. 1997, p. 53 [modem ]. F15s7

exa mple, it fea tures figural panels ca rved in the sa me distinctive style, framed by sweeping volutes, and has similar moldings and feet.

Cassone. A ucrioned in Pari s in 1982

96 l. Rietstap 1884, vol. 2, p. 1013 ; Ro lland 1938, vol. 3, pl.

CXV ll. "Parti d'or et d'azur; a deux vea ux affronta nt de J'un a_ l'autre, Sur une terrasse de sinople; au chef parci d'azure et de gules, broch a nt sur le partier ch arge d i six

fleurs-de-lis d'or." Identified by Anne-Ma rie Eze. 2. See I Vitelleschi : fonti, realta e miw (exh. cat . Pa lazzo Vitelleschi , Tarq uinia, 1996) ; Ma riella La Mantia, "Tra sti le go tico e rinascimenta le: ii palazzo Vitellesch i d i T arquini a" in L.:architettura di etli aragonese nell'ltalia

Cen tro-Meridionale (Rome, 2007), vol. ], pp. 121-34. 3. Wannenes 1988, fi g. l 13. 63 x 170 x 56.5 cm, as from the Veneto: sold in Paris in 1982 fo r 7 million lire. 4. The 1935 cata logue d ismissed the two fi gural pa nels as modern imitat ions. Erw in C hristensen (notes of

1927-3 1) thought that the back, sides, and base of the cassone might be ori ginal.

Room of Early Italian Paintings


Room of Early Italian Paintings

SIDE TABLE (TAVOLO DA MURO) The table has two sledge feet, which a re ca rved

GENOA OR LuccA, CA. 1600-20

at the front with crouch ing lions. Four turned

WALNUT, 81 x 93 x 58 CM

legs in the fo rm of Doric columns support squa re blocks. Under the table top is a drawer with a flattened ba ll knob. The sculptural decoration of t he table suggests t hat it was made in Genoa or Lucca. The piece may have been made to support a

Provenance: Bought from G iuseppe Sa lvadori, Florence, in October

cabinet: there are square openings (now filled) in the rail below the

1906 fo r 150 lire ["Petite table noyer"] ; Joseph Lindon Smith ca lls

table top that probably held rails fo r a fa ll front. The lions on the

this, "The little table with lions at the legs." Early Italian Room,

feet are now worn and the piece h as been re-stained. The drawer is

1915 [Marr 20047]. Literature: Gardner cat. 1935, p. 91 [composed of elements of the

a later addition.


16th, 17th, and 19th centuries].


I. S mith list 1906.

Room of Early Italian Paintings


The ba luster legs and the drawer front with ra ised, X II7 X

shaped panels are fea tures typical of furniture

59.8 CM

made in Bologna during the seventeenth century. Four wooden pegs secure the top to the rails, two on each side - an arra ngement which allows the table to be taken apart. This is also the case with a table in the dining room at the Villa I Tatti, the Florentine home of Bernard Berenson. The presence of seventeenth-century Bolognese pieces in these two related collections shows the taste fo r such furnishings around 1900,

Provenance: Perhaps pu rch ased from Karl]. Freund , New York, in

facilitated by the availability of high-quality originals on the market.

May 1915 for $150 ["One Ita lian Walnut Table, #2398"]. In the

The table is made principally of walnut but the lining of the

Early Italian Room in the same year [Marr 20049].

drawer is in poplar; the spherical knobs are olive wood. The bottom

Literature: Gardner cat. 1935 , p. 93 [perhaps 17th century]. Ga rdner

of the drawer at the back h as been repaired. The left front com er of

cat. 1997, p. 55 [17th century].

the top h as been replaced, repaired up to a depth of 2 to 3 centime-


ters. The table appears to be missing its original feet, as many tables of this type h ave onion feet.


Room of Early Italian Paintings

3r. CABINET (STIPO) This rather rust ic and n aively decorated cab inet TIROL, r8TH CENTURY embod ies the ch arm of Ita lian prov incial fur- PAINTED AND GILDED POPLAR WITH INLAYS OF WALNUT, PINE, ror.5 x 74路7 x 40.5 CM niture, especially of the A lpine reg ion s. G ilded metal hinges allow the entire front of the piece to open as a door. Fra med by a gilded molding,

the centra l panel h as a bold arabesque des ign of inlaid wa lnu t. The sur rounding surfaces are richly adorned with

this opens to revea l three smaller drawers. These pu ll out as a unit

vignettes set on a deep red gro und (FIG. A). These comprise three

to revea l a secret compartment. All of the d rawer fronts are inlaid

fa ntastica l creatures, six small turreted buildings, th ree ru stic

with stylized fo liage and edged with gilded moldings.

la ndscapes, a nd three fi gures painted upon small patches of gilding.

The simple inlaid decorations and rustic metal fittings, as well

On each of the cabinet's sides a re two panels with bold walnu t in-

as the naive painted design on the inside of the door, are typical

lays of ova l rosettes, fo liage, and strapwork (FIG. s). Metal h and les

of Alpine pieces. Such works, made in the Italian Tirol, tend to

with quatrefo il mounts a re attached to the sides. Appropriately

be rather modest in construction and decoration. However, the

for a piece of ch a rming provincia l fu rnit ure, t he cabinet rests on

pa inted and gilded exterior emu lates sophisticated Venetian lacca, especially fas hion able red-pa inted furniture intended to imitate

cipolla or onion feet. The inner surface of the door is ornamented with a design pa int-

C hinese lacquer. The vignettes painted on gold backgrounds - prob-

ed in black that mimics the inlay on the exterior (FIG. c ). Around

ably based upon contemporary prints - also suggest the influence of

the central pattern are painted arabesques at the corners and mid-

Venice, although they are more ro ughly executed than those from

points. Long straps of gilded iron affix the hinges to the door. The

urba n workshops. Despite some wear of the surface, particularly at

cabinet is fitted with fifteen drawers set aro und a small central door;

the base a nd feet, the cabinet is in very good condition. The simply




C abinet


Room of Early Italian Paintings

constructed drawers - nailed rather than dovetailed - survive intact. The three externa l handle and the locks are original, although the small gilt knobs on the drawers are later replacements. In 1903, Isabella Ga rd ner placed t he cabinet in the C hinese Room of her museum, where it supported a Japanese offering table and an amu let cylinder ( FIG. o). Since 1914, the arrangement has also included a Japanese ceramic fi gure of Li Po.1 G iven her keen eye and penchant for co mbining d iverse works based on color and

patina, no doubt I abella G ardner saw how well the cabinet's red, varnished surface and gilded details complimented the Asian objects in that room. Provenance: In the C hinese Room in 1903. Literature: Gardner cat. 1903, p. 7 ["An Italian cabinet"]. G ardner cat. 1935, p. 104 [possibly Venetian]. Gardner cat. 1997, p. 58. F15w1

c. Interior of the cabinet o. The cabinet in the C hinese Room, 1914. The painted chairs (cat. 32 ) ca n be seen to either side; in back is a Japanese six-part screen of the early nineteenth century. [Marr 19350]


I. See Boston 2009, p. 417, repr.

/l oom of 1-!arly Ita lian l'aiJ11.inl('



A li ho ugh ·1' nrl y lu1li;111 in or igin , th ·sc Lwc lvc RoME, 2N 1l Q AnTER OF Tll E 18T11 c NT nv chnirs hc ;1r n strik ing r 'Scmhl ;rn c to rl c Q ue ' II PA INTE I) WALNUT, CA. 109 x 52.5 x 45·5 'M A nn e styl ·. Li l<' th e Rri Li sl models, th ' y possess th · s;1111 ' g •n •ml ur vilin ca r lin 'S , al ri o l ' I 'gs, nnd splats sh;1p ·d as V<l SCS or halu st ·rs. I low •v ' r, th ' ri ch sur(;1,' tr mm ' nL o( gild in g, pa inted d ornt io n, th hair is the hca utifull y painted vign tt on the sp lats. Thee portr·iy ngu r 's attired in anci nt, Middle E stern, Asian, or Med innd v<l rni sh is ·I ·;i rl y lu1 linn in ori gi1 . B 'Cf1 usc o( th north ern origin o( th ' fo rm ;ind th eir "la LJ UCr" terranean dr ss.z I !owcvc r, the ostum s arc not rend ered with gr at d --onHi on, th ' ·h;1irs w'r ' long thought to have he n mad in spc ifi ity, whi h give rh fi gures a trong th atri a l fl avor; they Vcni ', wl i h ind ' 'd sp i<l lizcd in irnit<lti ons of Asian la qucr. may have b n in pir d by printed illustration of popul ar play .3 n the other hand, t h mi xture of fo reign, ancient, and rustic I lowcv ' r, th ' sryli z 'd hoof (c to( th e hairs '1r' d id cd ly Rorn '1 n fi gures i p~irt of a wid sp r ad fasc in ati on with the exoti in the in h;ir;1 t r, t1 S onz;i lcz- P;1la ios r ogni z I in 1985. Many of the d orativc art . ~'<H ur 's long r 'g8 r l 'd <l S ss nri;i ll y Vc1 cti'1n w r in fa t wide ly Ever sen itivc to su h ro s-cul tura l urrcnt , I abcll ardner u1kc n up througl out lui ly. h d orn tion o mpri s 'S a ground painted dmk blue (whi ·h pla cd the ha ir in h r first hin csc Roo m (see pp. 9 1, 101) wh re they bl ndcd bea utifull y wit h the lccti c mi xture of nin eteenthnow ;1pp '<l rs <l imost black), ' n liv ' n ' I with app li d pasr igli a in th cntury painting and A ian ohj c ts. Wh n h r arrang cl that form o( nrah 'squ 'S, fl orn l tendri ls, and din1er patt rn s, a ll gild ed. hcsc pa tt •rn s <l it ' r11<1t ' with wl it pan Is o ( va ri ous shape ·, fi llc I roo m into a ga llery fo r ea rly Ita li an pain ting in 1914, the hair w r among th few obj ct to r main.4 The chair now ar surwit h olorful lu st •rs o( biv's ;ind blossoms. ilding outlin s th I <111 ' ls, (o rmin g s ·rollin g, I •a(y (ni m s. This mov m nt is c hoed by ro und d by Rcnai an painting and furn itur , although a ~ w ;1 simpl ' molding ;dong th ' legs and skirts. T he abri ol st rmin at ts an sti ll h fo und in the di splay ca es. In addition, in di st in ti v ' h oo ~ d ~ c t . r ' rhaps th most r mnrkab l aspc t of cnti lc B llini ' eated cribe on a table in 1

I. l ) 1hl'I'

'C l ' of r h;1i1 -. ~lf 'l imil :ir Q 11l'1.· n A nnt..• :-.h 1,p1.·

with hgl111.:.., pn1nt \.·d on 1 h ~ :-.pln1 :-. have hcl' n :is... igncd to

Jl.onw . Sc<'' I i zi:rni 1970, pp. 98, 99, 16'i, 166 68;

ll :i 1

h11lin1 l'c11·:m 2004, p. 11 7; Costantini l'u>r.ltll 2004, l> g. 2% l.t., I t>C L. t , 1·:1 , 17 J0 1.


1'1.-•1.'1 H1 ' t..'



ca n h1.: d1 vHkd

il\l i.l


e ll

l..'gi. Hk,, (~ 1,1 \df.11h 19'-J'; , p. 62, \\li. l ntkrt..•d wh c..• 1h 1.• 1 th1.: l h .111 ' 011 g 1n:1ll y 1.

h.111 •..


11 1 ·wv1.•1,d ddk•11.• n1 ""'' I i-. 1.1f

1lnWl'Vl-' 1, 1ht.• lk·~ 1 g n :ind ' ' yl1.• 111 p.unt m g ;111.·

1d1.·n111... d, .1nd ... 1111.· 11. ,111.•go 1il·' :d'l11 u1 1.· 1hnu. ' YPl-'' Wl' I C 11\'11 1.-'' J'l..'l i.lll y 11lll'i. lll ill)I II\ lh l' l' IJ..( ht L' t.'lllh ll' lltlll' y.



''' ·'"'l'k .

th1· l't <' lllh :11·11;1, jc-:111

1\ irhnult (1718

176.l ), wnrJ.. 1.-·d rn Rrnlh.' :n'lnrnd 17501111d p:1m11.•d 1.•x1.11k hg llfl'' llh..'. llll ' '' hl· f 1P tn .11ound tlw

4. ~ 1.T

~ d ,1.1 1h1...-• ... 1x t1..·1.· n1h 1.1.· mu1 y

knn 1.1h11w t (1.11 , . 27,

II) .

wudd ,

t. 1... ,1. rn 1.-·

.md th1...• f11'i. l

h\11q11"' I 111h

l111l11111 l\1Hl!t•I~\





Room of Early Italian Paintings

the gallery, subtly underscoring the links between the arts of East

over a layer of gesso, the paint now on the backs was applied directly

and West. The system of upholstery is not original. The set originally h ad ca ned slip seat . This was replaced by various systems of upholstery to allow more comfortable use. O ld tacking holes appea r on the

to the bare wood. Moreover, the blue paint on the backs contains ultramarine rather than the sma lt found on the fronts; ultramarine would have been prohibitively expensive in the eighteenth century. 9 It is likely that the backs of the chairs were painted in the nineteenth century to allow them to be used in a domestic setting, fo r

painted surface of the aprons and side rails. 5 The dark blue areas on which the gilded diaper pattern was applied were painted with oil paint containing smalt, extended by the addition of varnish, namely Venice turpentine. 6 This more translucent paint could be applied in multiple layers to imitate Asian lacquer. Use of smalt wa common in Venice and the Veneto but much less so in Rome. Under the dark blue paint is a dark gray ground that enhanced the aturation of color. 7 The white panels were painted with conventional oil paint, then painted with flowers and vines, and finally coated with a thick layer of varnish con sisting of Venice turpentine.8 The splats are painted in oil and their

exa mple, around a dining table, as Gardner employed them at her house at G reen Hill (FIG. 12 on p. 21). But the chairs were made to seen from the front only, set aga inst walls. Provenance: Installed in the dining room at Green Hill by 1898 [Gardner list 1897]. In 1903, the chairs were in the C hinese Room and remained there when the room was reconfigured in 1914 as the Room of Early Italian Paintings. Literature: Gardner cat. 1935, p. 90 [Venetian, mid 18th-century] . Gonzalez-Palacios 1985, p. 64 [Roman, mid-18th century]. Goldfarb

varnish does not contain Venice turpentine. In contrast to the legs, 1995, p. 62 [Venetian]. Gardner cat. 1997, p. 59 [Venetian, ca. 1740] . tile , and rails, which were decorated in a japanning technique, F. Ca lderai, in Gardner cat. 2003, p. 129, repr. [central Italy, mid18th century]. the splats were painted in the tradition of ea el painting. It is likely that the rear surfaces of the chairs were originally un- F15e2 painted. Whereas the paint on the fronts of the chairs was applied

l0 4

5. The chairs were not upholstered th ro ugh the fronts and sides when they entered the museum . Siple notes 1927 recorded the covering as pa le yellow-green corded and watered silk . 6. Gas ch ro matopgraphy/ mass spectrometry conducted at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 7. Cross-section analysis. 8. During conservation in 1999, this varnish laye r was thinned w achieve grea ter cranspa rency.

9. Analysis by Va lentine Talland.

l Oj

Room of Early Ita lia n Pamtmgs

33 路 Two MIRRORS (sPECC HI ERE) The fra mes of these mir rors a re ca rved as car- NORTHERN lTALY, r8TH CENTURY touch es with a n elegant, und ulating profile. The


molding, pa inted red, is decorated with intricate fo liage a nd d ra pery fo rms, which a re a ll gilded . At the center of the to p mo ldings a re st ylized masks, o ne re presenting the sun, the o ther the wind . The fra me h ave been ex ten sively repa inted a nd pa rtly re-gilded. The mir ro rs m ay be r placements. but the iro n hooks a re o riginal. Proven a nce: Unknown . O ne of the mirrors wa

in the h a llway

leading to the music roo m a t Green Hill aro und 1900 [M a rr 2256]. hinese Room, 1903 [Ma rr 7762] . F15w22


Room of Early Italian Paintings


This sma ll table is supported by turned legs of

WALNUT, 60.5 x 76.6 x 52.7 CM

double-vase sh ape. T hey rest on

quare posts

connected to stretchers with pegs. O n the fro nt, set into the rail below the table top is a drawer decorated with a h aped pan el and fitted with a flattened ball knob. The ta ble's suppo rt d ates fro m the seven teenth century, a lt hough some re pa irs h ave been made to t h e sq ua re feet . However,

Prove n ance: In the Early Ita lian Room in 1915 [Marr 20047].

th e drawer and t h e table top we re produced at t he end of the nine-

Literature: Ga rdner cat . r935, p.

teenth cen t ury, in part by u in g o ld wood . In additio n , the frieze




below t h e top was sign ifica ntly ex tended in o rder to accommodate the new drawer.


Furnishing a Museum  
Furnishing a Museum