C'est Mon Plaisir

There’s something extremely gratifying about a character who emblazons the motto “C’est mon plaisir” (It is my pleasure) above her front door. This may in part explain my unhealthy obsession with Isabella Stewart Gardner, the Gilded-Age socialite who amassed an extremely eclectic collection of art and built a museum (house? palace?) in which to keep it.

Things that make me giddy with joy:

• A woman who takes it upon herself to build a Venetian inspired palazzo in...Boston. Gardner used a range of old columns, capitals and windows frames purchased from Venetian art dealers at the time, and had the walls painted pink and white to resemble battered Venetian plaster.
• Anyone with enough guts to pair priceless works of art of extremely varied eras with lesser known works and even replicas (??!) as Gardner did when she couldn't find the historical artifacts she needed to complete her palazzo. (High/low styling at its best?)

There isn't anything more wonderfully unfussy than ditching the distinction between art and decor, making an aesthetic vision or a mood a priority and using whatever it takes to realize it. Actually, it makes the fantastical vision at large a sort of work of fine art in and of itself.

" Titian's Rape of Europa...was displayed next to a sixteenth-century Persian carpet...two eighteenth century Venetian consoles, and a length of silk fabric that had originally been her Charles Frederick Worth dinner gown." (In Vizcaya by Rybczynski and Olin):

I like to imagine that Gardner was something akin to a real life version of Auntie Mame. But with a despotic side— in her will, she specified that nothing in her museum was to be moved or otherwise altered. Hence, the empty frames were left on the walls after a major art heist in '90:

Interesting in the face of the white box aesthetic that dictates the display of art in most museums today, no?

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