Do you know what’s in the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida? It’s not pictures of elephants and circus tents, it’s paintings and other objets d’art.
The museum was created by John Ringling, one of the original five brothers who started the legendary circus. The show’s popularity made Ringling a rich man, and he and his wife used the money to build a mansion and fill it with art.
Among the pieces — which do, in fact, include some circus art — are some large paintings by Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). Rubens was the court painter and adviser to Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, daughter of the king of Spain, and she commissioned Rubens to create 22 tapestries to hang in a convent where she spent time as a youth. Rubens’s workshop recreated the tapestries in a series of seven paintings, five of which are housed at the Ringling.
The museum also has an amazing temporary outdoor exhibit, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads by renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Twelve animal heads, representing the Chinese zodiac symbols, are mounted on poles 10 to 12 feet high. The heads are approximately 3 feet by 4 feet and weigh about 800 pounds each. You can see Circle of Animals at the Ringling through June 1.
Hours: Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, open until 8 p.m. Thursdays; base admission is $25 for adults $5 for children; discounts are offered on particular days and to certain visitors, three-day passes and memberships available.