Inventing Isabella

On view October 19th, 2023 - January 15, 2024

Throughout history, there have been women who defied expectations, and dared to be different. Join us as we explore how art, fashion, and photography shaped their personas and identities.

Isabella Stewart Gardner used art, fashion, and photography to cultivate her image. Though her name is on the Museum she founded, Isabella remains an enigmatic figure. As someone who often defied the expectations of her gender and class, many stories, scandals, and myths surrounded her during her lifetime and still do today.

Inventing Isabella unites many pictures of Isabella—from formal oil paintings to informal drawings and personal and press photographs—that Isabella chose to preserve. Combined with select examples of her clothing and jewelry, we see how Isabella fashioned herself and entered long and intricate collaborations with artists to craft her public image.

To celebrate this exhibition, Gift at the Gardner is pleased to offer a range of brand new Isabella-inspired gifts. Shop reproductions her famous Gothic Room pearl necklace and earrings, a replica of her antennae headdress, accessories and home decor inspired by her opera coat, and plushies of her two beloved dogs, Patty Boy and Kitty Wink.