John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

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John and Mable Ringling
Museum of Art
Fuente de las Tortugas-John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.JPG
John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is located in Florida
John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
Location within Florida
Location 5401 Bay Shore Road
Sarasota, Florida
Coordinates 27°22′53″N 82°33′33″W / 27.38138°N 82.55914°W / 27.38138; -82.55914
Type Art museum
Website Official site

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is the state art museum of Florida, located in Sarasota, Florida.[1] 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.[2]

Designated as the official state art museum for Florida,[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]


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.[6]

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.[7]

The State of Florida finally transferred responsibility of the Museum to Florida State University in 2000.[2] 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.[8]

In 2002 it appropriated $42.9 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.[7]

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.[5]

Ringling Estate[edit]

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 Ringling Museum of the American Circus, the Ringling Art Library, and the Asolo Theater.

Cà d'Zan[edit]

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.[9] The residence was restored in 2002 under the direction of Bill Puig.

Rose Garden[edit]

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[edit]

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"[10]

"The Wisconsin"[edit]

The Circus Museum also houses a new exhibit, one of the Ringling personal train cars, The Wisconsin, currently on display while it is undergoing final restoration.[11]

Ringling Art Library[edit]

The Ringling Art Library is one of the largest art reference libraries in the southeastern United States.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14] The Ringling Art Library also hosts an online blog.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Title XLVIII, 1004.45(2)(a) 2006 Florida Statutes". Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  2. ^ a b FSU article, 06/28/2004.[dead link]
  3. ^ "Ringling.Org". Ringling.Org. Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  4. ^ "Peter Paul Rubens, Paintings in Museums and Public Art Galleries". Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  5. ^ a b A vision rebuilt, St. Petersburg Times (Florida), Floridian, 01/28/2007.
  6. ^ John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. "The Ringling Circus Museum Collections: An Overview.". A. Everett Austin, the first Director of the Ringling Museum and a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, envisioned the idea of a Museum celebrating the American Circus. 
  7. ^ a b "About". The Ringling. 2000-07-01. Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  8. ^ "Board of Directors". The Ringling. Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  9. ^ John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. "Ca' d'Zan Mansion". 
  10. ^ John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. "Circus Museum". 
  11. ^ Zollo, Cathy (2009-01-23). "See Ringlings' sweet rail car ride". Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  12. ^ Art Library. "Art Library". The Ringling. Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  13. ^ "Art Library". The Ringling. Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  14. ^ Time: 9:00am – 1:00pm (2013-11-02). "Saturday for Educators: Icons of Style". The Ringling. Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  15. ^ "The Ringling Art Library". Retrieved 2014-03-17. 

External links[edit]

Media related to John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art at Wikimedia Commons