A Venetian Vision

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Music Room-Isabella Stewart Gardner-Beacon St-Boston-Martin  Mower-

The last remaining vestige of Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Venetian vision for the music room at her Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts, palazzo-style mansion is this oil painting by Martin Mower painted in the late 1890’s. Destroyed at the turn-of-the-20th-century, Mower’s romantic paean to Gardner’s Venetian decorative tradition paints a dreamlike world where 18t-century carved gilt chairs casually float against a rich background of silks and brocades. Despite the room’s fine Renaissance carvings and interior architecture Ms. Gardner conceived of rooms that are at once opulent and accessible. Furniture is informally arranged for conversation and comfort, centered on the room’s baronial hooded chimneypiece, at left, and further enhanced by a dose of exotic eclecticism weaving through her collections, textiles and objet d’art.  A lyrical and timeless beauty pervades Ms. Gardner’s music room, which we can perhaps attribute to Martin Mower’s insightful and sensitive interpretation of the chatelain’s vision of Venice.

You can visit the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum at 152 Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts.


8 Responses to A Venetian Vision

  1. Margaret Shaw Gallagher
    April 22, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    Hello from Louisiana!

    Just wanted to drop you a note to tell you how much I am enjoying your blog. Each time I read a column I am truly enriched! Thank you!


  2. Cristopher
    April 23, 2015 at 8:48 am

    Hello Margaret from Louisiana!
    Thank you for your generous words of support. It is gratifying to hear my posts enrich my viewers lives. This is why I do what I do!
    With warm regards –
    Your neighbor in Houston,

  3. Tania Alegria
    May 4, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    This article deserves my most enthousiastic applauses. An admirable lesson on good taste. From Lisbon, my best regards.

  4. Cristopher
    May 21, 2015 at 10:26 am

    Thank you Tania – pleased to hear you enjoyed this post!

  5. Christopher
    June 3, 2015 at 9:56 pm


    I am happy to see this beautiful and little known painting of Isabella Gardner’s collection online, where the public can enjoy it. However, this write up is not accurate. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is not located at 152 Beacon Street. 152 Beacon Street was the address of Gardner’s residence, where she lived prior to the construction of her museum. She dismantled 152 Beacon Street (and even had the street address retired) as she built her museum at the turn of the century (the Gardner Museum is located at 25 Evans Way in the Fenway). 152 Beacon Street, a town house, did contain a music room which along with the rest of the house was destroyed in about 1902. She built another music room for the museum, a grand neoclassical style hall. This in turn was destroyed in about 1914-15 to create new gallery spaces at the museum: the Spanish Cloister, Chinese Loggia, and Tapestry Room. This painted interior above, however, is not of Gardner’s music room at the museum nor is it the music room as 152 Beacon Street. It depicts her music room at Green Hill, her Brookline residence, where she continued to live throughout her life. While this room certainly changed after she reinstalled much of its holdings in her museum in about 1902 (the fireplace for instance is now installed in the museum’s Raphael Room), it was still used by her until her death in 1924, and a great deal of the room remained as it appeared in the painting. What is more, Martin Mower who painted this work did know Gardner until the 19-teens. While this painting is probably based on a photograph (by Thomas E. Marr) dating to the 1890s, it was likely painted two decades later. The painting was installed in the museum’s Vatichino, and it remains in the museum’s collection.

    (source: I have worked extensively with the archival holdings at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; I’m not just making this up)

  6. Cristopher
    June 8, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Dear Christopher,
    Thank you for shedding light on this story. My post is based on an entry by Stephen Calloway from his 1988 review, “Twentieth-Century Decoration”. The title and description for this painting (pg. 56) is “The House of an Art Lover”: The music room of 152 Beacon Street, Boston, the home of Isabella Stewart Gardner; oil painting by Martin Mower.” It seems I may as well delete anything I had written about this room and insert your comment in its place!

  7. Christopher
    June 16, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    Hi Cristopher,

    Thank you for the reference to the book. I will alert the museum’s archivist to it. If you are interested in this beautiful interior, you should know that there are several very beautiful photographs of it in the museum’s archives, which I am sure they would be happy to send to you for research purposes or to write a new post. Here’s a link I found which has an image of the exterior of Green HIll (http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/house/blog/dne/2013/08/isabella_stewar.html) and another that has an interior of the Music Room at Fenway Court, see fig. 9 (http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft838nb58v;chunk.id=d0e3356;doc.view=print). More historic photographs of the Gardner Museum’s interior can be viewed here (https://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/sets/72157625893361265).

    Best wishes,

  8. Cristopher
    June 24, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Hi Christopher,
    Thank you for your reply and the useful links on Green Hill and Fenway Court. If the museum’s archives can share additional photos of the interiors at Green Hill I just may write a follow-up post … to set the record straight for those who don’t read the “Comments” section.
    Warm regards,