Ringling Museum Complex

Ringling Museum Complex

Ringling Museum: 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, sculptures, 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 Giambattista Pittoni or 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.

Ringling Museum Complex

John And Mable Ringling Museum Of Art

John Ringling willed his property and art collection, plus a $1.2 million endowment, to the people of State of Florida upon his death in 1936. One instruction of the will states that no one has permission to ever change the official name of the museum. For the next 10 years, the museum was opened irregularly and not maintained professionally,

Ca’ d’Zan was 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 endowments had grown to only $2 million.

The State of Florida transferred the 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 one-third must be residents of either Manatee or Sarasota counties.

Ringling Brothers Museum

Ringling Brothers Museum

The Ringling is located in Sarasota, Florida and preserves the legacy of John and Mable Ringling. It is home to the State Art Museum of Florida, the historic Ca’ d’Zan Mansion, Bayfront Gardens, the Art Library, two Circus Museums, and the Historic Asolo Theater. The grounds and gardens are free to visit, and the Museum of Art offers free admission on Mondays.

The 66-acre winter estate of railroad, real-estate and circus baron John Ringling and his wife, Mable, is one of the Gulf Coast’s premier attractions and incorporates their personal collection of artworks in what is now Florida’s state art museum. Nearby, Ringling’s Circus Museum documents his theatrical successes, while their lavish Venetian Gothic home, Cà d’Zan, reveals the impresario’s extravagant tastes. Don’t miss the PBS-produced film on Ringling’s life, which is screened in the Circus Museum.

Ringling Museum Of Art

Ringling’s winter home, Cà d’Zan (House of John; 1924–26), displays an unmistakable theatrical flair evocative of his two favorite Venetian hotels, the Danieli and the Bauer Grunwald. Ceilings are painted masterpieces, especially Willy Pogany’s Dancers of Nations in the ballroom, and even the patio’s zigzag marble fronting Sarasota Bay dazzles. Self-guided tours ($10) include the 1st floor’s kitchens, taproom, and opulent public spaces, while guided tours ($20) add the 2nd floor’s stupendous bedrooms and bathrooms.

This is actually several museums in one, and they are as delightful as the circus itself. One building preserves the hand-carved animal wagons, calliopes, and artifacts from Ringling Bros’ original traveling show. Other exhibits trace the evolution of the circus from sideshow to Cirque du Soleil. Yet in the center ring, so to speak, is the miniature Howard Bros Circus: a truly epic re-creation at 1/12th scale of the entire Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus in action. This intricately detailed work occupies its own building and exists thanks to the 60-year labor of love of one man, Howard Tibbels.

Ringling Circus Museum

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 Wisconsin traveled by 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 the 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 Wisconsin. Later, the car was purchased by the Norfolk Southern Railroad, which renamed it, 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 the restoration of 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 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.

What day is Ringling Museum free?

Free Mondays at Ringling Museum. The Ringling Museum, one of Sarasota’s greatest attractions, offers free admission every Monday. So, every Monday, you can save up to $25 per person (the current cost of regular admission) and enjoy a day of strolling the galleries and the grounds without paying a cent.

How much does it cost to get into the Ringling Museum?

Year-long museum membership, which is $75 per person, includes Ca’ d’Zan admission to the first and second floors. “We recommend half a day to come and really experience Ringling,” High said.

How long does it take to tour the Ringling Museum?

approximately 40 minutes
Museum Admission + Mable’s Tour of Ca’ d’Zan

Tours are approximately 40 minutes long and scheduled throughout the day. Access► Visitors must be able to climb stairs and stand for the duration of the tour.