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Ringling Brothers Art Museum and Circus Memorabilia: Sarasota, Florida

The southern states have a charm all their own. From beaches to deserts, there is a wide array of landscapes to please almost anyone!

Partial view of interior courtyard of the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida

Partial view of interior courtyard of the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida

One of Sarasota's Treasures

Sarasota, Florida, and the surrounding area is home to some wonderful sights and places of interest. One treasure is the Ringling Museum of Art, which was opened to the public on March 30, 1930. The Ringling Brothers, who created a circus empire, also developed great wealth, and now visitors to Sarasota can enjoy some of what was bequeathed to the public by John and Mable Ringling.

Once when visiting my aunt and uncle who reside part of the year in Florida, my mother and I were treated to a day of sightseeing in Sarasota. Included in this one-day visit were the grounds of John and Mable Ringling's winter home which they called Ca' D'Zan.

These extensive and beautifully landscaped 66-acre grounds border Sarasota Bay and include the Museum of Art and the Circus Museum in addition to their palace-like home.

Location of The Ringling Art Museum

  • Address: 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, Florida 34243
  • Phone number: 941-359-5700

Collecting Art

World renowned art was collected by the Ringling's over a long period of time.

Old master paintings representing artist's creations from around the world and going back centuries are combined with tapestries, sculptures, furniture and other items. Modern art is not neglected in this vast and eclectic collection in which items are continually being added.

"Fountain of the Tortoises in the Courtyard at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is a modern copy of a sixteenth-century fountain designed by Italian Giacomo Della Porta, with bronze figures done by Italian sculptor Taddeo Landini."

"Fountain of the Tortoises in the Courtyard at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is a modern copy of a sixteenth-century fountain designed by Italian Giacomo Della Porta, with bronze figures done by Italian sculptor Taddeo Landini."

John and Mable Ringling accumulated this art collection and commissioned the building of the museum with the intent of donating it as their legacy to the people of Florida.

Mable Ringling died prior to the museum being completed. When John Ringling died in 1936 he bequeathed this entire estate including their winter home, the grounds and the museum with all the furnishings and art to the State of Florida.

Courtyard of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Sarasota, Florida.

Courtyard of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Sarasota, Florida.

Circus Artifacts and Memorabilia

After the State of Florida assumed responsibility for the property, it was thought that it would be appropriate to include a museum showcasing circus artifacts and memorabilia since that is what helped to create the vast wealth that was enjoyed by the Ringling's.

They also added a nineteenth-century Italian theater.

Contributions as well as purchases have amassed an assemblage of things like circus posters, drawings, prints, photographs, costumes, props and some rare and beautifully carved circus wagons among other artifacts for the circus museum .

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John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is a massive U-shaped building and it is divided into 21 rooms showing the collections of grouped art appropriate to each different era of artistic expression.

Examples include Sixteenth-Century Italian, Seventeenth-Century French and so forth. The West Galleries located at one end of the U-shaped building contains modern art and also shows special exhibitions. At the other end is the Asolo Theatre which is opened for limited engagements.

The courtyard in the center has a beautiful sculpture garden.

The Fountain of Oceanus in the Courtyard of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is a modern copy of a sixteenth-century fountain by the italian Giovanni da Bologna. The original is in Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy. Back detail. Sarasota, Flor

The Fountain of Oceanus in the Courtyard of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is a modern copy of a sixteenth-century fountain by the italian Giovanni da Bologna. The original is in Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy. Back detail. Sarasota, Flor

Wear good comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to spend a good allotment of time in the Ringling Museum if you wish to enjoy the legacy of art left behind by John and Mable Ringling.

You will enjoy the work of famous artists like Peter Paul Rubens, Velasquez and others to numerous to mention.

If you like the memory of grand circuses such as ones that were put on by the Ringling Brother's Circus, be sure and save some time to see the artifacts in that building on the Ringling estate.

Children of all ages will enjoy seeing these colorful and amusing remnants of a past era in entertainment.

If you enjoy art and are ever near Sarasota, Florida, be sure and take the time to see this exquisitely designed and beautiful John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

The legacy of this impressive and rich art collection is one left to not only the State of Florida, but it is one that can be enjoyed by all of us fortunate enough to be in the vicinity. The grounds are equally impressive. And be sure and stop by the Circus Museum as well. It is a treat for people of all ages!

Sources:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: How much is a ticket to visit the Ringling Museum of Art?

Answer: Every Monday, the Museum of Art is open to the public with free admission.

Normal admission prices include both the Museum of Art and the Circus Museum and as of this date (June 2018) here are the fees:

$25 for adults

$23 for seniors 65+

$5 for college students (some students in certain colleges pay nothing)

$5 Children from 6 to 17

Free for children 5 and under

$15 Active Military Members with !D

$10 Florida Teachers with ID

Free for members

Free for members with reciprocal museum memberships

Except for July, August and September here are the charges for Art After 5:

$15 All Adults

$5 Child 6 to 17.

Question: Do you have senior yearly passes for the Ringling Brother's art museum? We bring visitors there, and it gets expensive.

Answer: Senior annual passes are not listed as being available for purchase. However, every Monday, the Museum of Art is open to the public with free admission. So plan your visits on Mondays if at all possible to save money.

Question: My father was a trapeze artist with the Ringling circus for 8 years in the 1940s and1950s. If I come to the museum, will there possibly be photos of him?

Answer: I cannot answer that for sure but I would guess that if photos of your father are not on display, they probably have photos of him in their archives. It would certainly be something that you could explore.

Question: Are wheelchairs available at the Ringling Brothers Art Museum?

Answer: A limited number of wheelchairs are available on site. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own with them.

© 2009 Peggy Woods

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