Florida Travel: A European Feel at The Ringling Museum of Art

The extraordinary exhibits and architecture at The Ringling in Sarasota owe much to the grand vision of founder John Ringling.

  I spend so much time in the truly Florida parts of this state—the swamps and sloughs, the coastlines and scrub plains—that I’m astounded when I find a bit of Florida that is, well, nothing like Florida at all. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota is exactly that. Though it may be geographically located in our peninsular state, the museum’s architecture and its works of art feel as though they’ve been carved out of a European landscape. On a hot and muggy afternoon, I lured a friend to visit The Ringling with promises of high art. A connoisseur of museums himself, my friend was dubious. But as we stepped into the first gallery, where the five immense canvases belonging to Rubens’ Triumph of the Eucharist were displayed, my friend gave me a nod of approval. This was no lightweight museum. The Ringling’s museum of art is built on a grand scale, with expansive galleries and high ceilings. John Ringling—who made his fortune in the circus—went on a grand tour of Europe in the 1920s, where he and his wife, Mable, visited the home of the Duke of Westminster. Ringling discovered Rubens’ Triumph canvases there, which were for sale but nobody would buy, the duke informed Ringling, because they didn’t have a room big enough to hang them. “I have the space for them,” Ringling told him. The large-scale Rubens are the grandest of the museum’s works, but all of its pieces are rema
Subscribe Now and unlock unlimited digital access.
Already a subscriber? Sign In.