Sunday, December 19, 2010

John Ringling's Museum of Art and Ca d' Zan

Friday we toured not only Ringling's circus museum, but also his art museum and home. He died cash poor in 1936,  but was still quite wealthy with his assets of art collections as well as his home, Ca d' Zan (in Venetian dialect translates into "The House of John").  He and four other of his brothers made the Ringling Brothers Circus the greatest show on earth by shrewd management and mergers with other circuses. John also had personal investments in real estate and petroleum. It was the Gilded Age and he had money to burn.  He traveled to Europe and over four years bought 500 paintings, becoming a very knowledgeable and cultured collector of art.  He and his wife also fell in love with Venetian Gothic palaces and built one as their winter home in Sarasota, Florida. The Great Depression made him penniless, but he refused to sell either his art collection or his home. He willed them to the state of Florida upon his death. Below is a picture of the art museum, it is an impressive place to tour. Ringling's collection of Old Masters paintings is the finest in the country.
 The art museum has an inner garden courtyard dotted with reproductions of many famous sculptures, including a bronze cast of Michelangelo's "David".
The palatial home of John and Mabel is also very impressive. The 32-room terra-cotta mansion has marble pillars and steps, seventeenth-century Flemish tapestries, and gilded furniture.  My favorite room was the  ballroom with its very ornate ceiling depicting pictures of dancing couples from around the world in their native costumes. Below is a picture of the entrance to the house with its very decorative tower. The back of the house overlooks the Sarasota Bay.
The first major landscape project for the house was the installation of an enormous rose garden. Hard to believe that these roses are blooming so well in the middle of December, especially after the recent cold snap.

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