Perhaps no other museum in the world is more closely entwined with the glamour of art and circus culture than the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

Displays of world renowned paintings, circus props, and other collections can be found in Sarasota, the winter home of a world famous circus family. The Ringling, a bridge from the glory days of the American Circus to the present, is an intriguing walk through time.

Miniature circus model

One great attraction is the world’s largest miniature circus model made by Howard C. Tibbals. The book "The Many Worlds of Circus" states the model covers “3,800 square feet” with the walkway around the model’s perimeter measuring 450 feet in length “or one-and-a-half football fields,” with lighting for the exhibit designed to alternate “between six minutes of daylight and two minutes of darkness.”

Near the McKay Visitors Pavilion, the Tibbals Learning Center is one of two circus museums and home to handbills, posters and famous performers' wardrobes, including Nik Wallenda and Bello Nock.

One great attraction is the world’s largest miniature circus model made by Howard C. Tibbals. The book "The Many Worlds of Circus" states the model covers “3,800 square feet” with the walkway around the model’s perimeter measuring 450 feet in length “or one-and-a-half football fields,” with lighting for the exhibit designed to alternate “between six minutes of daylight and two minutes of darkness.” Every figurine and tent crafted displays Tibbals lifelong passion for the circus.

HISTORIC GALLERIES

Human cannonball truck

The Human Cannonball truck once used in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The truck is a modified Mack B-67, built to propel performers across the circus tent using a compressed-air cannon, a monumental legacy of the original Human Cannonballs, The Zacchini Family.

Next door to the Tibbals Center, the Circus Museum Historic Galleries further exhibits the Ringling legacy through equipment such as unicycles, The Ringling Bros. & Barnum Bailey Ticket Wagon, The Wisconsin Railroad Car and other vehicles that transported the Circus.

MABLE RINGLING'S ROSE GARDEN

Outside the Circus Museums, is the spectacular Mable Ringling's Rose Garden, laid out in an Italian inspired wagon wheel design with flower beds encircling a central gazebo. Vistors can stroll trough the garden on shell gravel pathways  lined with sculptures of courting couples providing company.

Visitors will discover the garden was designated by the American Rose Society as an "Accredited Public Rose Garden.'' With varieties like the Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, and Old Garden Roses, there is pleny for rose lovers to appreciate. 

THE CA'D'ZAN

The Grand Court of The Ca’d’Zan

The Grand Court of The Ca’d’Zan.The mansion was inspired by and designed in the Venetian Gothic style of the palazzos that ring the Venice canals. Built in 1926, it had amenities like heating and electricity, and an elevator from the first to fourth floor.

The Ca’d’Zan was inspired by and designed in the Venetian Gothic style of the palazzos that ring the Venice canals. Built in 1926, it had amenities like heating and electricity, and an elevator from the first to fourth floor.

One of the most marvelous sights is the East Ballroom, where the Ringlings entertained lavishly, setting the scene with a ceiling painting by Willy Pogany called Dancers of the Nations, each panel displaying a couple dancing from a different part of the world. called Dancers of the Nations. According to the audio guide, it was a popular way for wealthy families to show how worldly and well-traveled they were.

In the Grand Court, multicolored glass windows and doors provide a great view of the Sarasota Bay. Outside, visitors see the marble patio flooring that stretches up to the dock where John Ringling once parked his boat.

MUSEUM COURTYARD

Ringling Experience in Sarasota

Nestled within the Museum of Art’s 21 Original Galleries, lies the Museum Courtyard with iconic sculptures like the Fountain of the Tortoises, one of three replicas from Piazza Mattei in Rome that depicts four boys gently hoisting turtles up into a bowl of water.

Nestled within the Museum of Art’s 21 Original Galleries, lies the Museum Courtyard with iconic sculptures like the Fountain of the Tortoises, one of three replicas from Piazza Mattei in Rome that depicts four boys gently hoisting turtles up into a bowl of water.

The Original 21 Galleries focus on world renowned paintings like the Albrecht Of Brandenburg As St. Jerome In His Study, by Lucas Cranach the Elder. The Astor Mansion Salon and Library, two 19th-century historic interiors in Galleries 19 and 20 from the Astor Mansion in New York City, were purchased by John Ringling at the 1926 sale of the mansion prior to its demolition. Next door, a seventeenth century French harpsichord crafted by Claude Jacquet has the lid open to show a scene of Apollo, god of Peace and the Arts, pursuing the nymph Daphne. 

Visitors also will find art from the African and Asian continents, a connection of cultures through prints, ceramics and glass. Among them, the Soaring Through the Heavens sculpture by Fujikasa Satoko, hand sculpted and carved out of clay and forged in the image of swirling winds or flying birds.

THE RINGLING

A calliope

A calliope, a keyboard instrument resembling an organ but with the notes produced by steam whistles, in the Tibbals Learning Center parade wagon exhibit.

The Ringling Experience is a stunning journey through time that may take several trips to fully appreciate. 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota. 941-359-5700, ringling.org.

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