Mrs. Gardner Opens Her Doors

Jul 2012
Last week I was invited to an event for bloggers involved with design at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum hosted by the Museum’s marketing department. It was a special evening of visits to behind the scenes locations not normally open to the public, as well as a tour of the remarkable new Renzo Piano wing which opened earlier this year.
The Gardner has always been one of my favorite Boston museums; the traveling, slightly scandalous, rarefied lifestyle of Mrs. Gardner fascinating me, the original Venetian inspired villa with interior courtyard and Moorish overtones immediately transporting me to another world.
The new wing incorporated many sustainable building practices and is currently seeking LEED Gold certification. But I am getting a bit ahead of myself here.
Our evening began with a reception on the 4th floor in the drawing room. The chandelier at the center of the room is from the Tuileries Garden Palace which stood on the right bank of the Seine until 1871.
A Spanish writing desk is ornately appropriate for the time period. The two handles pull out to hold the desk top in place when open. Rich garnet velvet surrounds each of the metal design elements on the top of the desk. One can just imagine Mrs. Gardner sitting down to pen her correspondences to friends she made while traveling around the world.
The high performance energy efficient skylight over the center courtyard certainly doesn’t change the beauty of the space in any way. The lite filtering through at just the right moment turned the view into a painting etched in my mind’s eye!
This room was actually called the speak a bit-not sit a spell
Don’t we all need a room called the sit a spell speak a bit? Overlooking the courtyard, you certainly wouldn’t have to ask me twice to sit a spell here and find the time to speak a bit with my visitors.
At the other end of the 4th floor was a dining room with an elaborate ceiling and remarkable walls papered with the covering from old tea crates. The shimmering surface on the walls gives the effect of silver leaf.
The glorious Tapestry Room has been restored to allow guests to imagine the historical gallery as it was once used. Holly Salmon, Senior Objects Conservator took us through some of the work involved in the recent restoration projects. Soot and debris covered the intricate moldings on the surface of the limestone mantel. Original pigment on some of the carved angels was found during the cleaning process.
The leather coverings on the dining room chairs were reproduced in France. Traditional techniques were used to imprint the design into the leather which was then hand painted. The finished surface seems to glow with color in the darkened room.
Thursday evenings, the Gardner is open After Hours. Roving musician Peter Bufano provided accordion sounds, and people were free to wander the museum, wine in hand, to soak up the atmosphere of the historic courtyard {the garden is off limits} and new wing.
Come back tomorrow for part 2 as we tour the new wing of the museum.