Isabella Stewart Gardner - Travel Album: India, Volume V, 1884

Isabella Stewart Gardner (New York, 1840 - 1924, Boston)

Travel Album: India, Volume V, 1884

Bound album including collected photographs, found papers, pressed botanicals, and pen and ink annotations , 32 x 26 x 4.5 cm (12 5/8 x 10 1/4 x 1 3/4 in.)


Isabella Stewart Gardner kept thorough records of her travels in the form of travel albums. This album features her journeys in India in 1884. The Ganges (or Ganga) River is sacred to many Hindus who visualize the river as a goddess. The two photographs on pages 59-60 depict the Ganges in the ancient city of Banaras (known more commonly today as Varanasi) but the composition that Gardner creates out of them is a deceptive one. The two-page spread suggests that the photos form a single panorama when they actually depict the same side of the river. Gardner’s liberal use of these images to compose an imaginary scene exemplifies a common practice among Western travelers at the time who regularly portrayed India in a way that aligned more closely with their fantasies of the picturesque Orient than with reality.Siddhartha V. Shah, Director, Mead Museum of Art, Amherst College