WA Members Talk

A Little Gem in Boston

Audrey Bartner, WA Trustee, shares a little gem.


The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a little gem in Boston. It was built to evoke a 15th century Venetian palace and to be a place to show her ever increasing and valuable art collection.


On a March night in 1990, a pair of thieves gained access to the museum by posing as police officers. They handcuffed and duct-taped the two “real” guards and then placed them in the basement where they were found the next morning by the guards who had arrived for the next shift.

art thief

The thieves cut the pictures from the frames (Rembrandt, Vermeer and 11 others) and left the empty frames on the walls—which still hang in their places in the museum. The paintings are valued at $500 million dollars and the museum is offering a $5 million dollar reward for their return. (If you’re interested, please see me!)


The museum’s building is square and built around a beautiful atrium with lovely sculptures and greenery and gives you a feeling of being outside when you’re standing inside. When you enter, the atrium is on the left and all of the rooms are to the right. You have a view of the atrium from all levels, as there are large openings on every floor to look down from. It’s gorgeous!

When I visited, it was a lovely day and there were red flowering vines cascading down from the floors above. As an artist, I felt I might capture this scene in a painting one-day and so, I took out my iPhone to take a picture. Instantly, a security guard appeared and told me I could not take a photo. When I asked why, he said that since the robbery occurred, they don’t want to give people the opportunity to “case” the place with photography. I put my phone away. A little while later, I felt that perhaps I should be impressed that he thought that I could be a spy!


If this is interesting to you, there is an author I met who wrote a terrific novel inspired by this story. Her name is B.A. Shapiro and the book is called The Art Forger. To preview, click here.


For more information about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum or to plan a visit, click here.


Posted by Audrey Bartner