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Event Review: “A Venetian Valentine Evening” at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

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I’m in love. Not with a person but with a place. This past Sunday I attended A Venetian Valentine Evening at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA. I am ashamed to admit that this was the first time in my 30-odd years I have visited this museum despite the fact that I am a lifelong Boston area resident.

The event was described in the press release as a “romantic feast for all the senses” and I can at least attest to the visual sense. Upon entering the main section of the museum I was greeted with an inner courtyard whose atrium stretched three stories high creating a vast open space. The courtyard boasted a Roman mosaic floor and there were marble statues scattered throughout along with a beautiful flowering garden. I stood there mouth agape and immediately pictured myself seated there for hours on end writing. Alas, I had no time for such indulgences as I had arrived an hour after the doors opened.

I checked in and was told that servers would be wandering the downstairs with food and drink, but sadly the only evidence I ever saw of food were empty dirty dishes and glasses scattered in baskets around the main floor, and an occasional server with an empty tray. Perhaps this was because of my late arrival? Still, I admit I was disappointed as I had arrived quite hungry. There was an open bar serving the Venetian-inspired cocktail, the Bellini; however the bar was so thoroughly crowded that I decided I’d rather spend my time exploring the museum than trying to acquire a drink.

Upon checking in I had been given a program to aid me in a self-guided tour “highlighting some of the Gardner’s more evocative paintings and pairing these works with a love poem.” Guests were instructed to begin the tour on the third floor and work their way down. Along with descriptions of the art and the accompanying poetry the program contained directions on how to find each piece that was chosen for the tour. Sounds easy enough, right?

Wrong. I found myself wandering to and fro desperately trying to figure out exactly where I was supposed to be standing to locate each work. At first I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to a bad sense of direction on my part, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t the only one getting lost. Over the course of the evening I came across several other guests suffering the same dilemma and it actually became a bit of a bonding experience for the lot of us.

Despite all of that I want to assure you that I had a wonderful time and highly recommend a visit to this treasure of a museum. The art alone is worth every penny and then some, especially considering that the ticket price for this event included a one-year membership to the museum. The collection houses some of the foremost pieces in the history of art, including works by Botticelli, Whistler, and Michelangelo. In addition to the paintings and drawings there is sculpture, furniture, textiles, and an impressive collection of letters including ones penned by Bonaparte.

The museum is located at 280 The Fenway in Boston, MA and is open Tuesdays through Sundays. Please be sure to check them out on the web at gardnermuseum.org and on Twitter and Facebook. Their next special exhibition, "Modeling Devotion: Terracotta Sculpture of the Italian Renaissance," opens February 25th and runs through May 23rd.

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About Jennifer Williams

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    Sounds wonderful! I visited the Gardner Museum for the first time recently too, though it wasn’t for a special event. It’s a tricky museum to navigate in the best of circumstances because of the terms of her will, which don’t allow any modifications to the layout, as I understand. But it’s certainly a unique place with some superb pieces and an atmosphere of its own.