The Poesie:

Mary Tudor Speaks of and to Titian's Women

Saturday, March 5, 3 - 5 pm
Calderwood Hall

Join us for the world premiere of a dramatic monologue written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and theater critic Hilton Als in response to the exhibition Titian: Women, Myth, & Power. Mary I, the first queen regnant of England, married Philip II of Spain in 1554, shortly after the young prince commissioned six paintings from renowned Renaissance artist Titian. Als' monologue considers Titian's poesie, or painted poetries, from the future Queen’s perspective.

Als examines the Titian paintings through the eyes of the portrait of Mary included in the exhibition. In striking contrast to the poesie, Als describes Mary "as a woman who is not nude, not full-bodied, and a leader rather than a 'subject,' unlike the women in the Titian works.” Through this new monologue, Als introduces a new “gaze” to these paintings.

Hilton Als.

Hilton Als became a staff writer at The New Yorker in 1996, a theatre critic in 2002, and chief theatre critic in 2013. He began contributing to the magazine in 1989, writing pieces for The Talk of the Town. Before coming to The New Yorker, Als was a staff writer for the Village Voice and an editor-at-large at Vibe. His first book, The Women, a meditation on gender, race, and personal identity, was published in 1996. His most recent book, White Girls, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the winner of the Lambda Literary Award in 2014, discusses various narratives of race and gender. He won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2017.


In 1997, the New York Association of Black Journalists awarded Als first prize in both Magazine Critique/Review and Magazine Arts and Entertainment. He was awarded a Guggenheim for Creative Writing in 2000 and the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for 2002-03. In 2016, he received Lambda Literary’s Trustee Award for Excellence in Literature. 


In 2009, Als worked with the performer Justin Bond on “Cold Water,” an exhibition of paintings, drawings, and videos by performers, at La MaMa Gallery. In 2010, he co-curated “Self-Consciousness” at the Veneklasen Werner Gallery in Berlin, and published “Justin Bond/Jackie Curtis.” In 2015, he collaborated with the artist Celia Paul to create “Desdemona for Celia by Hilton,” an exhibition for the Metropolitan Opera’s Gallery Met. “Alice Neel, Uptown,” which Als curated in 2017, was selected by three of Artforum’s critics as one of the ten best shows of the year. ;


Als is an associate professor of writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and has taught at Yale University, Wesleyan, and Smith College. He lives in New York City. 

About the Visiting Curator of the Performing Arts

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Visiting Curator of the Performing Arts helps the Museum provide a dynamic, engaging artistic incubator for new and contemporary expressions through dance, music, theater, and spoken word, and builds on Isabella's desire to host multi-disciplinary cultural experiences. With a one-year tenure spanning 2021-2022, Hilton Als is the third person to serve in this role. Past Visiting Curators of the Performing Arts include musician and impresario George Steel and vocalist and performance artist Helga Davis.


While the City of Boston’s vaccination and mask mandates are lifted for general museum visits, the Gardner maintains its proof of vaccination and mask requirements for free and ticketed events in Calderwood Hall. Please visit the Know Before You Go web page for additional information, including accepted forms of documentation. Please contact the Box Office at 617 278 5156 for further assistance.


As mandated by the City of Boston, as of January 15, 2022, all visitors ages 12+ are required to provide proof of vaccination upon entry. Face masks must be worn. For further information about the Museum’s current guidelines and resources to prepare your visit, our Know Before You Go webpage or contact the Box Office at 617 278 5156 or

Tickets are required and include Museum admission. 

Adults $20, seniors $18, students $13, free for members, university members, and children 17 and under.

  • Online, by clicking the TICKETS button above*
  • By calling the box office at 617 278 5156, Wednesday-Monday, 10 am-4 pm*
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The Visiting Curator of Performing Arts is supported by the Barr Foundation ArtsAmplified Initiative and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Museum receives operating support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which is supported by the state of Massachusetts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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