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The Ringling Museum

An Extraordinary Day at the Circus
By Kelly Lamano

> Feeling whimsical and wanting to learn more about the magic behind the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus? Step right up to the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, as it is the perfect place to visit. More than a museum, the Ringling Museum of Art contains many exhibits changing throughout the year, an extravagant mansion and a performing arts venue. Sarasota was once the home of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Show during the winter quarters.

performers and daring stunts. The abstract art shows the developing styles of circus acts and the influence Modernism has on popular entertainment and artists.

Before the museum was built, the Ca’ d’Zan was established in 1925. The Ca’ d’Zan, meaning “House of John” in Venetian dialect, is quite a palace containing 41 rooms and 15 bathrooms. The five-story mansion was the home of the Ringling’s and is constructed complete with a bayfront terrace made of marble. Inside the impressive mansion is Venetian Gothic architecture, much of which the family truly admired. The mansion and the museum perfectly reflect just how extravagant the vision of the Ringling’s was.

The Museum of Art was built by John Ringling as a place to keep his personal collection of prized paintings, masterpieces and sculptures. The halls contain beautiful antiquities and renaissance sculptures, one of which includes “David” by Michelangelo. For more history about the Greatest Show on Earth, the Circus Museum displays a variety of artifacts, which include colorful costumes, baggage wagons, props and promotional posters. Original sketches and quirks, such as how to apply clown makeup, give the museum great character. The Circus Museum was built in 1948 in memory of John Ringling and was the first in the country to highlight the great history of the American circus.The world’s largest miniature circus, the Howard Bros. Circus Model, allows visitors to get a taste of what the circus was like from 1919 to 1938. The model features camels, bleachers and the circus performers, putting the visitor right in the middle of a miniature show. A special exhibition currently going on through Sept. 16 is Circus Moderns, featuring posters from the 1910s to the 1940s to highlight famous

bronze and stone copies of Renaissance, Classical and Baroque sculptures. An oddity contained in the courtyard is the Dwarf Garden. This contains limestone statues of “commedia dell’arte” figures, which was an improvised form of theater developed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Italy. These figures are to complement the nearby Historic Asolo Theater, which was brought to Sarasota from Italy.

The museum is full of character and history, a great stop for any family or couple to enjoy. As the age-old rule goes, no one is ever too old for the circus. For more information, visit the museum website for exhibits, programs and performances. <

Connecting Ca’ d’Zan to the Millennium Tree Trail is the Bayfront Promenade located at the south end of the estate for visitors wanting a break in the shade. The gardens honor Mable Ringling’s formal rose garden. The Museum of Art Courtyard displays a Renaissance theme throughout with

“The museum is full of character and history. As the age-old rule goes, no one is ever too old for the circus.”