Chasing Beauty

We’re on a hometown spree along the famous Fenway in the heart of Boston. Fenway Park is where the Red Sox play, John Updike’s “lyric little bandbox of a ballpark.” Fenway Court, built around the same time just a few blocks away, is a jewel box, a treasure house of high art, an American palazzo and museum like none other, a matching monument to quirky Boston’s eccentricity and its beauty.

Courtyard, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston. (Photo: Sean Dungan.

We owe Natalie Dykstra for her new biography of Isabella Stewart Gardner—who designed Fenway Court, inch by inch. She invented this magical space where Proper Old Boston got up close and personal with the Italian Renaissance, and does to this day.

Natalie Dykstra. (Photo: Ellen Dykstra.)

Mrs. Gardner made social history, art history, women’s history on a grand scale, but there’s something more here, evident in the Titian room of her museum, with masterpieces on the walls by the giants: Velasquez, Titian himself, and Botticelli around the corner. But there’s Mrs. Gardner, too. She had the authority of an empress (and a whole lot of money) in assembling this art, one painting at a time. Somehow the final effect is unpretentious, intimate, humble, democratic.

Our banner image is from John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner, from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston—

Guest List
Natalie Dykstra
Author of Chasing Beauty: The Life of Isabella Stewart Gardner.

Related Content