John Singer Sargent - Isabella Stewart Gardner, 1888

John Singer Sargent (Florence, 1856 - 1925, London)

Isabella Stewart Gardner, 1888

Oil on canvas, 190 x 80 cm (74 13/16 x 31 1/2 in.)


Object details

Accession number



  • John Singer Sargent (Florence, 1856 - 1925, London) - primary
  • Isabella Stewart Gardner (New York, 1840 - 1924, Boston) - subject


Isabella Stewart Gardner purchased from John Singer Sargent, 6 February 1888 for $3,000.


Signed (upper left): John S. Sargent
Dated (upper right): 1888

Dimension Notes

Frame: 225.43 x 116.21 cm (88 3/4 x 45 3/4 in.)


Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), pp. 269-70.
Morris Carter. Isabella Stewart Gardner and Fenway Court (Boston, 1925; Reprint, Boston, 1972), pp. 104-05.
Morris Carter. "Mrs. Gardner & The Treasures of Fenway Court" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), pp. 6, 55, ill. 4.
Charles Merrill Mount. John Singer Sargent, a Biography (New York, 1955), pp. 132-34.
Gladys Brooks. Boston and Return (New York, 1962), pp. 183-84.
Corinna Lindon Smith. Interesting People (Norman, Oklahoma, 1962), pp. 156-57.
“Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 6, no. 19 (6 Jan. 1963), pp. 1-2. (excerpting Morris Carter, pp. 103-05)
“Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 6, no. 31 (31 Mar. 1963), p. 2. (excerpting Corinna Lindon Smith, pp. 156-57)
“Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 7, no. 14 (1 Dec. 1963), p. 2. (excerpting Gladys Brooks, pp. 183-84)
“Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 7, no. 39 (24 May 1964), p. 2. (excerpting Charles Merrill Mount, pp. 132-34)
Philip Hendy. European and American Paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1974), pp. 222-24.
Doreen Bolger Burke. "Astarte: Sargent's Study for The Pagan Gods Mural in the Boston Public Library." Fenway Court (1976), p.19, no. 10.
Kathleen Weil-Garris Brandt. "Mrs. Gardner's Renaissance." Marks of Identity: New Perspectives on Sixteenth-Century Italian Sculpture. Fenway Court, vol. 23 (1990-1991), pp. 10-30, no. 6.
Erica Hirshler. Denis Miller Bunker: American Impressionist. Exh. cat. (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Chicago: Terra Museum of American Art and Denver: Denver Art Museum, 1995), p. 52, fig. 23.
David Park Curry. "Never Complain, Never Explain: Elsie de Wolfe and the Art of Social Change." Cultural Leadership in America, Art Matronage and Patronage. Fenway Court, vol. 27 (Boston, 1997), pp. 52-78, no. 4.
Anne Higonnet. "Private Museums, Public Leadership: Isabella Stewart Gardner and the Art of Cultural Authority." Cultural Leadership in America, Art Matronage and Patronage. Fenway Court, vol. 27 (Boston, 1997), pp. 79-92, no. 2.
Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray. John Singer Sargent: Complete Paintings (New Haven, 1998), I, The Early Portraits, pp. 209-11, no. 206.
Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, (Boston, 2003), pp. 204-5.
Cynthia Saltzman. Old Masters, New World: America’s Raid on Europe’s Great Pictures (New York: Penguin Books, 2008), pp. 49, 61.
Christine M. E. Guth. "Multisensorial Asia" in Alan Chong and Noriko Murai (eds.). Inventing Asia: American Perspectives Around 1900. Fenway Court, vol. 33 (Boston, 2014), pp. 92-93, fig. 7.
Richard Ormond et al. Sargent: Portrait of Artists and Friends. Exh. cat. (London: National Portrait Gallery and New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015), pp. 16, 180-81, cat. 66.
Barbara Dayer Gallati. John Singer Sargent: Painting Friends (London, 2015), pp. 10 fig. 5.
Linda J. Docherty. "Translating Dante: Isabella Stewart Gardner's Museum as Paradiso." Religion and the Arts (2018), pp.199-200, fig. 1.
Per Hedström, ed. John Singer Sargent. Exh. cat. (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, 2018), pp. 138-139, ill. p. 138.
Christina Nielsen (ed.). Sargent on Location: Gardner's First Artist-in-Residence. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2018), p. 15, ill. p. 19 (fig. 7).
Alison Wright. Frame Work: Honour and Ornament in Italian Renaissance Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019), pp. 151-153, 183, fig. 100.

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Mrs. Gardner sat for Sargent during his visit to Boston in January 1888. He was paid $3000 for the portrait, which was exhibited to great acclaim at Boston’s St. Botolph Club. The work also inspired gossip and legend: someone jokingly titled it “Woman: An Enigma,” while others believed that the sensuous display of flesh deliberately echoed the scandal recently created by Sargent’s Madame X. Mrs. Gardner herself said that she rejected eight renderings of the face until she was satisfied. Jack Gardner seems to have asked his wife not to publicly show the portrait again while he was alive, and indeed the portrait was placed in the Gothic Room, which remained private until Mrs. Gardner’s death. In its gallery, surrounded by altarpieces, stained glass, and religious statuary, the sacramental quality noted by nineteenth-century reviewers is even more pronounced.