Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida
Susanna and the Elders, Sisto Badalocchio
Portrait of Albrecht of Brandenburg as St. Jerome, Lucas Cranach the elder
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is the state art museum of Florida, located in Sarasota, Florida. It was established in 1927 as the legacy of Mable and John Ringling for the people of Florida. Florida State University assumed governance of the Museum in 2000.
Designated as the official state art museum for Florida, the institution offers twenty-one galleries of European paintings as well as Cypriot antiquities and Asian, American, and contemporary art. The museum's art collection currently consists of more than 10,000 objects that include a variety of paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs, and decorative arts from ancient through contemporary periods and from around the world. The most celebrated items in the museum are 16th-20th-century European paintings, including a world-renowned collection of Peter Paul Rubens paintings. Other famous artists represented include Benjamin West, Marcel Duchamp, Diego Velázquez, Paolo Veronese, Rosa Bonheur, Gianlorenzo Bernini, Giuliano Finelli, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Frans Hals, Nicolas Poussin, Joseph Wright of Derby, Thomas Gainsborough, Eugène Boudin, and Benedetto Pagni.
In all, more than 150,000 square feet (14,000 m2) have been added to the campus, which includes the art museum, circus museum, and Ca' d'Zan, the Ringlings' mansion, which has been restored, along with the historic Asolo Theater. New additions to the campus include the Visitor's Pavilion, the Education, Library, and Conservation Complex, the Tibbals Learning Center complete with a miniature circus, and the Searing Wing, a 30,000-square-foot (2,800 m2) gallery for special exhibitions attached to the art museum.
A. Everett (Chick) Austin Jr., a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and, from 1927 to 1944, the innovative director of the Wadsworth Atheneum, was the Ringling Museum's first director.
Ringling willed his property and art collection, plus a $1.2 million endowment, to the State of Florida upon his death in 1936. However, for the next 10 years the museum was opened only irregularly and not maintained professionally, Ca' d'Zan was still used privately and not opened to the public, while the State fought with Ringling's creditors over the estate (Ringling was nearly bankrupt at his death; Florida would finally prevail in court in 1946). Even after prevailing in court, the Florida Department of State (who had initial responsibility for the Museum) did virtually nothing to manage the endowment or maintain the property, while the local community (believing the Museum to be the State's responsibility) did little to support the Museum. By the late 1990s Ca' d'Zan was falling apart (as were the exterior footpaths and roads), the Museum had a serious roof leak plus its security systems were wholly inadequate to protect its collection, and the Asolo Theater building was actually condemned, while the $1.2 million endowment had grown to only $2 million.
The State of Florida finally transferred responsibility of the Museum to Florida State University in 2000. As part of the reorganization it created a Board of Trustees consisting of no more than 31 members, of which at least 1/3rd must be residents of either Manatee or Sarasota Counties.
In 2002 it appropriated $42.9 million in construction funds, with one major condition – the Museum had to raise $50 million in private sector support within five years; the Museum raised $55 million by the deadline.
In January 2007, a $76-million expansion and renovation of the Museum of Art was finished. A new Arthur F. and Ulla R. Searing Wing was added—the new wing being the final component of a five-year master plan that has transformed the museum. It is now the sixteenth largest in the United States.
The Ca' d'Zan mansion
Aside from the art museum, the estate also contains the Ringling's mansion, Ca' d'Zan, Mable Ringling's rose garden, the Circus Museum and Tibbals Learning Center, the historic Asolo Theater, the Ringling Art Library, the Secret Garden, gravesite of John and Mable Ringling and the FSU Center for the Performing Arts.
The garden of the Cà d'Zan mansion
Cà d'Zan, (Venetian for "House of John"), is the waterfront residence built for Mable and John Ringling. The mansion was designed by architect Dwight James Baum with assistance from the Ringlings, built by Owen Burns, and was completed in 1926.
It is designed in Venetian Gothic style. Overlooking Sarasota Bay, the mansion became the center for cultural life in Sarasota for several years. The residence was restored in 2002 under the direction of Bill Puig.
Mable Ringling’s rose garden was completed in 1913 while she and John were living in another house on the property. The rose garden is located near the original Mary Louise and Charles N. Thompson residence within the beautifully landscaped grounds overlooking Sarasota Bay. John and Mable are both buried near this garden.
Circus Museum and the Tibbals Learning Center
The Circus Museum, established in 1948, is the first museum of its kind to document the history of the circus. The museum has a collection of handbills, posters and art prints, circus paper, business records, wardrobe, performing props, circus equipment, and parade wagons. The adjacent Tibbals Learning Center contains the Howard Bros. Circus model. Built by Howard Tibbals, this ¾-inch-to-the-foot scale replica of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1919–1938, is the "world's largest miniature circus"
John Ringling owned a private railroad observation passenger car and used it from 1905 until 1917 to travel with his circus, conduct business trips in and to take vacations with. It was built by the George Mortimer Pullman Company in Pullman, Illinois. It was made of wood. It weighed 65 tons, was 79 feet long, 14 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It cost $11,325.23, this was only about half the price of a comparable Pullman car of the time, because it was outfitted with walls taken from other railroad cars. John Ringling was the youngest person in the country to own his own private rail car. He named it for his home state of Wisconsin, and because that is where his circus was quartered. John and his wife, Mable, traveled in the car on their honeymoon. When the Wisconsin traveled with the circus train, it was usually placed in the middle of the consist. The car was divided into an observation room, three staterooms, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and servants’ quarters. It was richly furnished and boasted an interior of mahogany and other woods, intricate moldings, gold-leaf stencils and stained glass throughout. The 10-foot high ceilings were painted Viva Gold, Baize Green and Fiery Brown. There were toilets in each compartment. John and Mable Ringling had a private bathroom, including a tub. The rear compartment of car was the observation room, which could be used as a lounge or as an office. At this rear end of the car was an observation platform. All the rooms got extra daylight from a clerestory of opalescent glass. When New York City, where the Ringling Circus opened its season each year, banned wooden cars from the city’s tunnels, John Ringling decided to sell the Wisconsin. Later, the car was purchased by the Norfolk Southern Railroad, which renamed it the Virginia, it used it as a business car for its railroad officials. Then it was sold to the Atlantic & East Carolina Railway, which adapted it into a fishing lodge, renamed it the Carolina and placed it in Morehead City, North Carolina. Tracked down by circus enthusiast Howard Tibbals in 1985, it was acquired by the North Carolina Transportation Museum which kept it in covered storage on its grounds in Spencer. A $417,240 federal grant awarded to the Florida Department of Transportation helped pay for restoration of the Wisconsin's exterior, carried out by the Edwards Rail Car Co. in Montgomery, Ala. The next stop for the railcar was The John and Mable Ringling Museum in Sarasota Florida. An anonymous donation of $100,000 then brought the Wisconsin's interiors back to their Gilded Age sheen, work which was done right at the Ringling Museum. The Sarasota County Parks and Recreation Department donated railroad tracks for the train car to rest on. The tracks became available as part of the Rails to Trails project. The rails were laid by volunteers from the Florida Railroad Museum located in Parrish, Florida. Instead of actually entering the car, visitors to the display at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art now walk along a raised handicap accessible platform and view into the Wisconsin's windows to admire the restored elegance of yesterday brought back to life so vividly.
Ringling Art Library
The Ringling Art Library is one of the largest art reference libraries in the southeastern United States. The collection of nearly 90,000 volumes includes some 800 books originally owned by John Ringling himself. The Library hosts a book club, The Literati, that meets monthly. Other regular events include a Saturday for Educators Workshop series which is designed to enhance educators’ understanding of The Ringling’s collections and special exhibitions, while also providing an opportunity for networking, collaboration, and inspiration. The Ringling Art Library also hosts an online blog. The library is open to the public and there is a reading room for patrons to view and use materials; however, the collection is non-circulating and items cannot be checked out.
The Secret Garden
In 1991, John, Mable and his sister, Ida Ringling North, were buried on the property just in front and to the right of the Ca d'Zan. It is called the secret garden and John is buried between the two women. There is a locked gate around the 3 graves and tombstones. There is a garden and statues in front of the gate. On the anniversary of John Ringling's birthday, neighboring New College students often sneak in and place a cigar on John's grave.
Ringling International Arts Festival October 7–11, 2009
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