Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840–1924) was an incorrigible individualist long before such behavior was acceptable for a woman in polite Boston society, and her legacy is a treasure for art lovers. “Mrs. Jack” designed her exquisite home in the style of a 15th-century Venetian palace and filled it with European, American, and Asian painting and sculpture. You’ll see works by Titian, Botticelli, Raphael, Rembrandt, Matisse, and Mrs. Gardner’s friends James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent. Titian’s magnificent Europa is one of the most important Renaissance paintings in the United States.

The building holds a hodgepodge of furniture and architectural details imported from European churches and palaces. The pièce de résistance is the magnificent skylit courtyard, filled year-round with fresh flowers from the museum greenhouse. A special exhibition gallery features two or three changing shows a year, often by contemporary artists in residence. The newest wing is a work of art in itself, designed by internationally renowned architect Renzo Piano to hold the entrance, administrative offices, cafe, and gift shop, plus gallery space and a concert hall.