Isabella Stewart Gardner was a woman who knew what she liked and she became one of the foremost art collectors of her time. She befriended great artists such as John Singer Sargent who painted her several times. You will see these painting in her museum.
Before you begin to tour the museum you should either rent the audio guide and/or ask them to borrow the little blue book that gives you information on the pieces in the collection. Without either one of these, you will be at a loss. The items in the rooms are for the most part not marked so if you aren’t an art expert, you will have no idea what you are looking at. Unfortunately the docents are not experts and when approached with specific questions about a particular piece will not be able to offer any information. The little blue book is also for sale if you would like to own a copy.
Entrance $15 for adults, the audio tour is $5. If you visit the Museum of Fine Arts the same day there is a $2 discount. Both are also on the Go Boston card. If your name is Isabella this is one of the times you will be grateful, all Isabellas get free entrance to this museum. If you are an Isabelle you can try to convince them that your Mamma just forgot the “a” but they aren’t going to buy it. It has to be exact. You can assume that Isabela isn’t going to get in free either, they are sticklers.
The house has three floor built in the Mediterranean style around a center court yard with a glass covering. There is an elevator if doing the stairs is a problem. The rooms around the courtyard have windows that open onto it. The courtyard is very attractive with lots of plants and flowers and places to sit and enjoy them. Some of the Rooms are named for the painter whose paintings are on display in the room. There are Titian and a Veronese Rooms, others are more descriptive like The Early Italian Room and the Dutch Room. Many years ago the Gardner Museum was hit by a major robbery and when you look around at the treasures that are here now, it is hard to imagine that the best of the best is gone.
You will be stunned by the variety and quality of what is here. You will notice different things every time you visit. Look for the piece of Mary Queen of Scot’s dress, it isn’t all about paintings here. If you are looking for a nosh there is a cafe and you can do some serious shopping in the gift shop which is extremely well stocked.
You can park at the Boston Fine Arts Museum, there is also a parking garage. Expect to pay $20 for 2 hours, a little steep but there really aren’t many options. There is metered street parking, good luck!