Journal Article

Collectors and why they collect

Rosemary Matthews

in Journal of the History of Collections

Volume 21, issue 2, pages 183-189
Published in print November 2009 | ISSN: 0954-6650
Published online February 2009 | e-ISSN: 1477-8564 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jhc/fhp019
Collectors and why they collect

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Isabella Stewart Gardner had the words ‘c’est mon plaisir’ carved into the brickwork above the front door of her museum as a statement of her intention in forming her collection. Although superficially this may have been true, in this paper it is argued that subconsciously Gardner collected in response to losses experienced throughout her life. This theme is traced through her collecting of designer dresses by Charles Frederick Worth, costumes that allowed her to reinvent herself after the death of her only child, and through her collection of rare books that marked a time of intellectual development and renewal. It is argued that her losses led her to surround herself with painters, writers and musicians, thus forming a collection of young artists. The purchase of her first Old Master was influenced by the loss of her son, and the creation of her museum inextricably linked to the death of her husband.

Journal Article.  4776 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Exhibition Catalogues and Specific Collections ; History of Art ; Social and Cultural History

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