John Singer Sargent - Mrs. Gardner, 1887

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

Mrs. Gardner, 1887

Pencil on paper, 20.5 x 12.8 cm (8 1/16 x 5 in.)


Object details

Accession number



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


Presumably a gift from John Singer Sargent to Isabella Stewart Gardner, 1888.


Inscribed by Isabella Stewart Gardner in ink (lower right): John S. Sargent Feb. 28. 1888
Inscribed in pencil by an unknown hand (verso): ISG


Rollin van N. Hadley (ed.). Drawings: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1968), p. 48, no. 23. (inscribed and dated by Isabella Gardner)
Rollin van N. Hadley and Frances L. Preston. "Berenson and Mrs. Gardner: The Venetian Influence." Fenway Court (1972), pp. 11-17.
Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray. John Singer Sargent: Complete Paintings (New Haven, 1998), I, The Early Portraits, p. 211.

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Isabella Gardner and John Singer Sargent first met in 1886 in the artist’s studio in London. There Gardner admired Sargent’s daring portrait Madame X (now the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) so much that she commissioned him to paint her likeness. This sketch of Gardner’s head set against a dark background was probably an early preparatory drawing for the oil portrait which Sargent painted from December 1887 to January 1888. Gardner inscribed the drawing with Sargent’s name and the date, most likely recording when she received the sympathetic portrait from him as a gift.

Source: Oliver Tostmann and Anne-Marie Eze, The Inscrutable Eye: Watercolors by John Singer Sargent in Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Collection, exhibition on view in the Museum's Fenway Gallery, October 31, 2013–January 20, 2014.