Today we went to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Ca d’Zan (winter home of the Ringling family), Circus Museum and Tibbals Learning Center.
The Circus Museums
The Circus Museum celebrates the American circus, its history and unique relationship to Sarasota. Established in 1948, the museum was the first in the county to document the rich history of the circus. View colossal parade and baggage wagons, sequined costumes, and a sideshow banner line that document the circus of the past and of today. See memorabilia and artifacts documenting the history of The Ringling family circus, John Ringling as the Circus King, and the greatest circus movie, The Greatest Show on Earth, which was filmed in Sarasota.
Also on exhibition in the Circus Museum is the Wisconsin, the private Rail car of John and Mable Ringling built in 1905. Built during the golden age of rail, the Wisconsin car provides a unique view into the splendid travel accommodations that John and Mable Ringling enjoyed on their travels around the country on business and with the circus.
Enter the Circus Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center and see an exhibition of circus posters. Ranging in size from window to barn sized, these colorful posters were plastered on buildings, walls and fences all across America and broadcasted in no uncertain terms that the circus was coming to town.
The cornerstone of the Circus Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center is the world's largest miniature circus, The Howard Bros. Circus Model. The model is a replica of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1919 – 1938. It was created over a period of more than 50-years by master model builder and philanthropist Howard Tibbals. The second floor of the Tibbals building documents the history of the American circus from ancient times to the present.
Opening in 2012, an expansion to the Circus Museum will contain exhibitions that celebrate circus performers were visitors of all ages will experience the magic of the center ring.
The 1st museum
the Poster Collection
detail in the model circus.
the side show of the model circus
THE middle ring of the model of the big tent.
a reproduction finished in 2008
these are the actual cars and acts.
Ca d’Zan Mansion
The Ringlings' dazzling palatial mansion is a tribute to the American Dream and reflects the splendor and romance of Italy. Described as “the last of the Gilded Age mansions” to be built in America, Cà d’Zan has 56 incredible rooms filled with art and original furnishings. With its Venetian Gothic architecture, the mansion is a combination of the grandeur of Venice’s Doge’s Palace, combined with the gothic grace of Cà d’Oro, with Sarasota Bay serving as its Grand Canal.
In 1924, construction began on Cà d’Zan, which means “House of John” in Venetian dialect. The house was completed just before Christmas 1925, at a cost of $1.5 million.
John and Mable Ringling greatly admired the unique architectural style of the Danieli and the Bauer-Grunwald hotels in Venice, as well as the palaces that face the Venetian canals. This architectural style, called "Venetian Gothic," greatly influenced the Cà d'Zan's design, which architect Dwight James Baum and builder Owen Burns helped bring to Sarasota for the Ringlings.
Mable Ringling had an oilskin portfolio filled with postcards, sketches, photos and other materials that she gathered on her travels to aid the architect with his design.
Cà d’Zan is 200-foot long encompassing approximately 36,000 square feet with 41 rooms and 15 bathrooms. The structure is five stories and has a full basement. The pinnacle of the structure is the 81-foot Belvedere tower with an open-air overlook and a high domed ceiling.
Cà d’Zan is constructed from terra cotta “T” blocks, concrete, and brick, covered with stucco and terra cotta, and embellished with glazed tile. The original roof was made from 16th century Spanish tiles imported by the builder Owen Burns. The bayfront terrace is made of domestic and imported marble.
In April 2002, comprehensive restoration and conservation was completed on Cà d'Zan. The six year, $15 million initiative restored the mansion to the era of Mable Ringling.
West view of the house.
Bayside view of the house.
Museum of Art
The Museum of Art, built by John Ringling to house his personal collection of masterpieces, today features paintings and sculptures by the great Old Masters including Rubens, van Dyck, Velázquez, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, El Greco, Gainsborough and more. The European, American and Asian masterworks available here make the Museum of Art an awe-inspiring retreat. It is a palace for treasures emulating the footprint of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, echoing its grace and grandeur.
In 1925, Ringling engaged architect John H. Phillips to design the museum. Construction began in 1927, but was slowed almost immediately by the collapse of Florida’s land boom and later, Wall Street’s stock market crash. Financial misfortune and Mable’s death in 1929 might have ended the dream, but John Ringling instead gained a new resolve to complete the museum, borrowing money as needed, knowing that it would perpetuate the memory of his beloved Mable.
In October 1931, “The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art” was officially opened to the public.
The Courtyard of the Museum of Art features casts of original antiquities and renaissance sculptures, including the towering David by Michelangelo. The Courtyard features two fountains - Fountain of Tortoises, one of three replicas from the Piazza Mattei in Rome, and the Oceanus Fountain, copied from the 16th century original by Giovanni Bologna in Florence’s Boboli Gardens.