A touch of Renaissance elegance can be found not only inside Florida’s state museum but also within its courtyard.
In the late 1920s, more than 50 bronze casts were destined for Florida, from the Chiurazzi Foundry in Naples, Italy. The casts were ordered by John Ringling, the circus entrepreneur and fine art collector.
The Chiurazzi Foundry was famed for its rare molds of antique statues from prestigious collections such as the Vatican’s and the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Ringling had intended to display the bronzes in a Ritz Carlton hotel that he planned to build in Sarasota. That dream was never realized, and the bronze casts have been in the courtyard of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art ever since.
It was back in 1925 that Ringling commissioned John H. Phillips, the architect responsible for The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Grand Central Terminal in New York, to build a museum to house his ever-increasing fine art collection.
The resulting building has 21 galleries that wrap around the courtyard in a U-shape, opening out onto Sarasota Bay.
Inspired by Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, Phillips’s design for The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art harks back to the palaces of the Italian Renaissance with their rectangular buildings, pink color, and details in marble. The sculptures on the rooftop, acting almost as trim, are reminiscent of Palladian and Baroque buildings.
The Ringling Museum of Art opened in 1931, and in 1936 Ringling bequeathed the museum to the people of Florida.
Now, visitors can wander through the courtyard garden, the layout of which is similar to that of a Renaissance villa, and afterward they can sit by or study the iconic classical statues.
Among the quality casts are the “Apollo Belvedere” and the “Laocoön,” the originals of which come from the Belvedere Courtyard in the Vatican. And of course, one of the most famous Renaissance sculptures is towering above the courtyard, but far beneath Florida’s famed palms: Michelangelo’s “David.”
Judging just from the courtyard, it looks like Ringling achieved his dream to “promote education and art appreciation.”
To find out more about the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, go to Ringling.org