Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Isabella Gardner

I made one of those connections that is possible with just a little research: Yesterday was Sylvia Plath's 75th birthday, and she was quoted by Edward Byrne as saying she would like to be Poetess of America. This is conceivable, but she listed also her competition: "May Swenson, Isabella Gardner, & most close, Adrienne Cecile Rich."

I knew two of the three for sure, but "Isabella Gardner" made me wonder if this was the same woman in Boston who curated her own museum. This museum is very strange - actually, "eccentric," is the word the museum prefers, and it uses it in all of their literature. She was an eccentric woman with eccentric taste who wanted her art collection on display to show off its eccentricities.

She wrote in her will that all of the art in the museum must be displayed exactly the same after her death, which would have been perfectly fine - except that thirteen pieces were stolen, including a Rembrandt and a Vermeer. This is apparently a famous unsolved mystery. Now thirteen empty frames are left upon walls throughout the museum.

It turns out that this Isabella Stewart Gardner is the aunt of the Isabella Gardner to whom Sylvia Plath refers. In addition to threatening Plath with her books of poetry, she was an associate editor for the literary journal Poetry, and died at 66 in the year 1981.

(She is not in this photo, but this is the staff of Poetry Magazine around her time. I wonder why it is so hard to find a photograph?)

I love when these things come together. But wait! A book on her aunt's museum was written by my former film professor, Patricia Vigderman. Another lovely connection. Thank you, O Google.

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