“There was a historical ball to be given. . .in order to cover the expenses of enlarging the [museum] building.
A committee was set up and I, together with a German painter, a certain Gaugengigl, was
chosen for the examination of costumes and the directors of the event.”
As one of Boston’s leading art teachers and artists, Tommaso Juglaris was called upon to assist with plans for a magnificent gala intended to raise funds for a facility expansion of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Tapping his past experience in Paris as an artist for Racinet’s acclaimed History of Costume, Juglaris freely lent his services. Along with Ignaz M. Gaugengigl, a German painter, Juglaris oversaw the design of costumes that were to be worn by some of the most distinguished participants at the benefit. He personally prepared over a hundred original watercolor designs for the local seamstresses engaged in sewing each elaborate historical costume.
Described by the Boston Post as an “Artist’s Festival” and the Boston Globe as “Fairyland,” the gala was held on April 26, 1888 at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts on Copley Square, just a short distance from the Boston Art Club. Despite heavy rain, eight hundred men and women—Boston’s ‘400’ and more-- alighted curbside from carriages, creating “a perfect crush of people.” Presiding on a dais as “lady patronesses of the affair” in front of Regnault’s dramatic painting, The Horses of Automedon, were a bevy of Boston’s most socially prominent women--Mrs. Martin Brimmer, Mrs. W.F. Althorp, Mrs. Edward S. Codman, Mrs. Samuel Eliot, Mrs. J. K. Gardner, Mrs. W. W. Greenough, Mrs. Hallowell, Mrs. C.G. Loring, Ms. B. J. Lang, Mrs. A.I. Mason, Mrs. Edward Robinson, Mrs. F. P. Vinton, and Mrs. Henry Whitman. Perhaps reflecting Juglaris’s own taste, all, as reported by the Boston Globe, “were dressed in beautiful Venetian costumes of the time of Paul Veronese, and their gorgeous brocades and flashing jewels, with the deep ruff and odd square, one-sided fans…made a living picture of such form and coloring as one seldom sees.” Standing at the end of the row of women, Mrs. “Jack” Gardner—Isabella Stewart Gardner, the chatelaine of Fenway Court--was particularly spectacular in a “venetian red brocade” gown “of a very rich and heavy quality…cut very low in the neck, front, and back, and the sleeves were queer, large puffs over longer ones of gauze.” The fabled Gardner jewels were on conspicuous display. In the words of the Globe reporter, “A long chain of pearls encircled her neck twice, and the front of the bodice was one mass of diamonds, two diamond stars nestling in her hair; also Mrs. Gardner’s little white poodle was carried by her side by a little black-a-moor page.”
Dressed as a seventeenth-century Italian, Juglaris attended the gala in the company of his compatriot and colleague Augusto Rotoli, professor of “Italian Singing” at the New England Conservatory. As both Juglaris’s memoir and the Boston Globe attest, Mr. and Mrs. Rotoli arrived costumed as the Emperor Napoleon and Empress Josephine of France. In his memoir, Juglaris remarks that he never “saw in any European country so much wealth and so much expense for an evening of only four hours.”
Funds raised by the extravaganza were definitely a boost to the Boston Museum of Art. Two 60-foot wings were added to the museum along Dartmouth Street and Trinity Place to house collections that were crowding the museum’s space. Construction began in 1888 and continued through 1889 with the new galleries finally opened for public inspection on March 18, 1890. Whether it was a mere coincidence or the result of a joint benefit of some kind, the nearby Boston Art Club also expanded its facilities at the same time. Acquiring the former bicycle club next door on Newbury Street, it enlarged the existing second floor main gallery and added to the clubhouse’s three floors a conference room, three work rooms, and a small gallery. Unveiled on December 18, 1889, the new clubhouse improvements were lauded amid a larger concern with maintaining the reputation of the Boston Art Club over and against similar artist organizations thriving in New York City.
A Party to Remember for ‘Boston’s Best People’
The historical ball that Tommaso Juglaris helped plan as a benefit for the Museum of Fine Arts turned out to be Boston’s greatest social event of the decade—maybe even the century. It was conceived and executed in the grand manner befitting America’s so-called “Gilded Age” when wealth was often brazenly displayed. The next day, on April 27, 1889, the Boston Daily Globe, expressed its own awe and delight:
“The long-talked-of-artists’ festival, which has absorbed all of the waking thoughts of many of the fair maidens of Boston during the last few weeks, and even invaded their dreams at night, came off last evening, and may be pronounced a most magnificent success from both the social and artistic points. In spite of the driving rainstorm without which made getting to the scene of the festivities so very disagreeable, there was a perfect crush of people there, and those who arrived between 8 and 9 o’clock found themselves obliged to fall in at the end of a long line of carriages, which extended on both sides of the street into the bridge on Huntington avenue. Once through the awning tunnel and in the vestibule of the Art Museum and all the trials of getting there were forgotten in the enchanting spectacle spread out before one’s eyes. The dressing rooms in the basement were constantly receiving monotonous groups of misshapen and dull-colored beings and as constantly giving up again creatures of the most picturesque form and gorgeous colorings, who had emerged from their rainstorm wrappings like the most brilliant-winged butterflies from their dull gray cocoon cases. These passed as quickly up the stairs and found themselves in fairyland…"
"The scene that followed was one not easily described nor soon to be forgotten. It was as if some conjurer’s wand had been waved over the past six centuries, calling their men and women back from across the river styx to enjoy once more the pleasure of life on this dark side of the stream. For here were gathered together the counterfeit presentations of the fair and good: yes, and the clever rascals too of all times and of all lands… Just imagine for yourself, for I can’t describe it, nearly 800 of all the heroes and beauties from history and romance, stepping out of their printed pages and enjoying a social evening together. And these old-time beauties and heroes, of their wraiths could really have been present last evening, would have not felt ashamed of their modern representations, for they were Boston’s ‘best people,’ and the earth contains no better.”