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Category: Travels

21 Dec

Foyer Ceiling at Ca’ d’Zan

I have quite a few decorative painting pics to show you from some of my mini-vacations! This one is from a quick jaunt to Sarasota, FL, where a visit to the Ringling Museum was a must on the list.  We’ve previously seen their gardens and a bit of the Ringling family home, Ca’ d’Zan (Part 1 and Part 2).  This is actually a very special ceiling in the Ca’ d’Zan foyer.

To give you an idea of its space in the home, here is an image from the living room (an interior court). The foyer itself has glazed walls and Moroccan-inspired arched windows.

Here are a few close-ups.  According to archive records, the “ceiling beams enclose areas of canvas painted with conventionalized foliated motifs in red and gray. That decoration…[was] created by Robert Webb“. Mr. Webb was an artist who studied under John Singer Sargent and he mastered gold leafing and mural work while assisting him.  After a few years and solo projects on his own, he moved his family to Florida. It is said that while Mr. Webb was working on the grape leaf design on the foyer ceiling, his client John Ringling said, “Webb, hurry up! I’m running out of time and money!” to which Mr. Webb immediately put down his brush and said “I’m finished!”. The panel to this day remains uncompleted.  Here’s a few close-ups.

Grape tree close-up (above) and within the panel (below)

Do click here to see a visual tour — walk straight ahead and you’ll run right into the foyer. It is interesting to note that the artist, Robert Webb, had a daughter named Thelma who wrote his biography and filled it with his life story, experiences and anecdotes about his peers and projects. She called it Tramp Artist. I’ll be needing to purchase that.

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10 Sep

Ca’ d’Zan – Part Two

So, I think I might have mentioned that I went to Sarasota’s Ringling Museum recently. (As in this post on the incredible gardens and this first post on the Ca’ d’Zan interiors.) There’s a few more features yet to come as it’s wayyyyy too much yumminess to share on only one post.  Today, I’m going to show you the first floor Great Hall in the museum’s Ca’ d’Zan mansion but it does encompass the second floor as well.  It was the family’s main living room. Here’s the full shot…

Initially, I was like one of those puppies that couldn’t concentrate as there was so much artistry to take in.  It is a two-and-a-half storied interior court and it is approximately 40 feet long. There are several bedrooms that overlook the hall from a second floor balcony. The tapestries are from the 17th century and depict various scenes, including the life of Alexander the Great and the heroic career of Achilles.

I’ve noted arrows below where you can see the various areas of hand-painted ornamental works.

In case you’d like to pin this image without the arrows, click here.

Here are some close-ups for you.

Love the two-toned harlequins, the hand-painted design and the aging, too.  You?

The column below is made of a gorgeous onyx from Mexico.  To see a close-up, click here.

The furnishings all reflect the Italian and French Renaissance. Lovely gilding on the beautiful screen and furniture!

Thirty rooms spread out from this main living room and it’s the home’s unifying architectural feature.  The ceiling is coffered and made with Florida pecky cypress and frames an inner colored glass skylight.  The cypress has been hand-painted as well as the (previously-seen) ceilings surrounding three sides of the hall on both floor levels.

A truly amazing room.  In fact, if you’d like to take a virtual look at Ca’ d’Zan, the Ringling Museum has a fully interactive tour.  You can also read so much more in an extensive PDF about its architecture and design.  Hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post — have an inspired day!

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25 Jun

Ca’ d’Zan – Part One

I hope everyone had a great weekend!  I just got back from the Haven Conference and it was a wonderful time! Lots of bloggers, lots of information, lots of new friends. I also recently spent time at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, FL which encompasses the grand home Ca’ d’Zan in the same complex.  We recently profiled their gardens and statuaries.

Walking up to Ca' d'Zan with a pair of sphinxes leading the way.

Ca’ d’Zan is frequently described as the last of the Gilded Age Mansions built in America.  It was built in 1924 by John and Mable Ringling with architect Dwight James Baum.  It is 200 feet long and encompasses 36,000 square feet.  (You can see Mr. Ringling here in front of the home.)  It cost 1.5 million at the time and in 2002 it underwent a 6-year, 15 million dollar renovation.

The architecture is called Venetian Gothic and you can see the influence Venice had in its construction, including being right on the water (in this case, Sarasota Bay).   In the Venetian dialect, Ca’ d’Zan translates to “House of John”.

Doge's Palace in Venice, Italy by Claude Monet

Ca' d'Zan patterned after the Doge's Palace

The pavement of the terrace is both imported and domestic marble laid in a chevron pattern.

The view into Sarasota Bay

I’m going to break up the interior into several posts but here’s a peek at some special areas…

Gilded doors in the Foyer

Close-up of the gilded doors.

There are some areas that are less ornate than others.  Below is the Breakfast Room.  Great windows, no?  Also, I enjoy the colors in the room — the checkered black and white marble flooring extends quite a bit around the first floor.

Of course, the less ornate areas are far and few in between.  Gilding and ornamental artistry abound.  The paneled walnut ceilings after the painting below are in the State Dining Room.

The Game Room below is in the third floor.  The Commedia dell’ Arte-inspired mural encompasses the entire ceiling and was painted by Hungarian artist Willy Pogany.  It includes John and Mable Ringling in costume, dancing couples, figures in masks and festive gondolas representing carnival life in Venice.

This image photographed by Giovanni Lunardi.  Here’s another angle and a few close-ups.

If you’d like to see and learn more about Ca’ d’Zan, the Ringling library has an excellent article and there’s also a virtual tour.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this initial post — the remaining rooms to be covered have extraordinary decorative painting and design to share. Can’t wait to put those posts together!

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18 Jun

Ringling Museum of Art: Gardens & Statuaries

Travels 5 Comments by Regina

I live in Orlando and for years have been planning to go see the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, FL.  On Memorial Day weekend, my family and I were going to St. Augustine but a tropical storm was bearing down that way and so we decided to head to the altogether opposite coast, Sarasota.  (Everyone in my family takes storms seriously.)

I do want to say that the name, Ringling Museum of Art, may have some misdirection.  There is so much more to this “attraction” — it leads one to believe it is simply one museum but it’s actually the former residence of John and Mable Ringling (of circus fame) whose vast residential complex of 20 acres was gifted to the State of Florida and is now open year-round to visitors.  They have incredible gardens and statuaries as well as two museums (Art and Circus, the latter surprisingly entertaining), a historic theater and the Ca d’Zan mansion.  I originally thought it was going to be one blog post but after spending the day there, realized it would take several. We start today with the Gardens & Statuaries.

  Wandering around, you see beautiful statues, flowers, ponds and trees. There are over 200 varieties of trees and over 40,000 plantings.

Click to Enlarge

On the right above, you will see a banyan tree that is part of the Millenium Tree Trail.  Banyan trees are fascinating – if you will see the top right of the right pic above, a branch is growing out of existing branch and travelling downwards into the ground. Once there, they dig in, take root and become stronger by forming a “new” tree.  This is how the banyan tree grows and takes over an area.  Below, you will see how it has taken over a statue in its path.

I’ve put close-ups below.  As the tree grows, you can see it encroaching other statues.  It’s quite disconcerting and in my active imagination, I could almost hear the stone angel-child hopelessly crying for help in a despairing, breath-deprived stone-rasping-on-stone voice.

Click to Enlarge

There is also a beautiful rose garden that was completed in 1913.  It is 27,225 square feet and is patterned after “a traditional Italian circular garden design”. The roses were blooming while we were there and the fragrance was intoxicating.  What a beautiful experience!

The Museum of Art itself has an amazing center courtyard filled with bronze replicas of Greek and Roman sculptures.  With great music playing and lively chatter, a local company was setting up an evening wedding reception while we were there.

One tiny corner of the courtyard...

Reception preparations are underway.  You can see a bronze cast of Michelangelo’s David right behind the (rather huge) screen.  Below is one of the trees where chandeliers (can you see it?) and lanterns were being hung.  The photo doesn’t do it justice but it was so, so pretty.  I literally wanted to hide in a closet somewhere just so I could just see the evening reception in all its glory but my family nixed that idea.  [@#%$#&!!!!!!!! Ahem.]

Lovely light fixtures being hung from the trees. Imagine them lit up romantically at night...

The Dwarf Garden is a very pretty walkway with statues of dwarves – some are serious, others are playful and most look like they have just the right amount of mischief planned to make you uneasy.  [Have you ever seen a Dr. Who episode called "Blink"? You won't ever trust a statue again. Yes, I know it's not real...but I'm not going down into the basement if I hear a noise either. ]  One wrong turn and you might miss this — it’s a bit hidden.

The Dwarf Garden

Mable Ringling oversaw the construction of the complex with architect, Dwight James Baum.  She also created a secret garden for herself, where she would entertain her friends.  She wasn’t known to seek the spotlight in society and so I can just imagine how this area might be just the right speed for her.  A peek is below.

Please do be sure to visit the Ringling website for more information on the entire complex but know I will be providing some information in the individual posts as well.  We have the museums, theater and mansion to get through yet.  In 2000, the estate was turned over from the State of Florida to Florida State University, which established Ringling as one of the largest museum/university complexes in the nation and saved it from certain ruin.  (Visiting the estate supports FSU, not the Ringling Circus — I just want to point that out.)  Whenever I talk about it, everyone who has visited joins in on the rhapsodic chorus — I haven’t heard of a disappointed visitor yet.  If you are in Sarasota, please do consider making this part of your itinerary. I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post and that you enjoy the upcoming ones. Have a great day, Everyone!


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16 Apr

L’Hôtel de Ville

Straight from Regina’s laptop.  Bonjour!

A few weeks ago, this image of L’Hôtel de Ville captivated me.

I had to find out more.  I originally thought it was a hotel but I found out that L’Hôtel de Ville is actually the City Hall of Paris. (On a side note, I’m somewhat miffed my City Hall doesn’t look like this.  As in, not even remotely. Clearly, the French have a patent on making even the most mundane exhibit beauty.)  The interiors are blessed with gilding, sculptures, decorative painting and fine art.  Murals were commissioned from the leading painters at the time, including Jean-Paul Laurens and Henri Gervex.

The Paris City Hall Hall has been the center of the capital’s municipal institutions since 1357.  It was redesigned in the 16th century and then again in the 19th century.  The exterior boasts a Neo-Renaissance design while the interior ranges from the Renaissance to the Belle Epoque era.  The building has played a key role in many political events.

Exterior in the evening as photographed by Benh Lieu Song.

(above, below) Two of a series of photographs on Flickr by Hotels Paris Rive Gauche.

Below is just one pic from the excellent post The Paris City Hall in Some Details by ParisOslo.

They also host wonderful private events…

…and fun events for the public.

By the way, the very first image is by Audrey Felix, a French photographer and art director, who also blogged about her visit there.  (<– There are so many gorgeous images on that post I suggest you NOT miss clicking on it, trust.) Well, not only is L’Hôtel de Ville the seat of government, it also houses popular (and free) exhibitions.  It is closed on Sundays and holidays but open at all other times.  They also offer guided tours.  (Check for hours, though!)  The building also has a Metro nearby.  Have you been?  I’d love to go — it’s on The List.  Have a great day, everyone!

P.S. As a side note, it was also the background seen in Le Baiser de L’Hôtel de Ville by Robert Doisneau.  You might recognize the photograph. :)

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26 Mar

Living in Cuba

Narrow Streets of the Old Quarter.

When I worked for a Latin record label, I almost visited Cuba.  There where several Cuban artists on the roster and a team was sent for a photoshoot for the album artwork for an influential band called Los Van Van. I was thisclose to going but was ultimately not sent with the crew.  (The album, Llego Van Van, later won a well-deserved Grammy.)  Growing up in Miami, I was also exposed to both the beauty and politics of Cuba.  It’s a country that has always fascinated me.

I visited my Mother recently and found a gorgeous book she had bought called Living in Cuba written by Alexandra Black and photographed by Simon McBride.  I eagerly picked it up and she told me “Oh, you’re going to love the architecture!”.   She is a generous soul and graciously gave me the book.  (You can protest, but it will get you nowhere.)  So, I am sharing it with you.

Stairway in Old Havana

A blue panelled salon.

Ms. Black traveled from coast to coast to fully capture the flavor and magic of Cuba.  She writes on all aspects of Cuba — the livelihoods, the cities, the architecture, the design and the artistry.  Mr. McBride complimented her writings with gorgeous photographs. This is truly just a sampling.

A Moorish arch with Italianate fresco artistry. Here’s a closeup of the art. Lovely.

Do click on the images above to enlarge.  On the left is the 17th century Casa de la Obra Pia and on the right, a 19th century indoor courtyard.

Green is a popular color in Cuba because it is easy on the eye and helps reduce the glare of the sunlight.

Azulejos - Spanish ornamental tiles. Love the colors and design!

(above) Fresco artists came to Cuba in the 1500s with the Spanish conquistadors.  The Spanish had learned the craft from the Italians but most chose to use less figurative work and more dainty designs with the bold colors.

Exuberant colors in a colonial doorway.

Spying Art Nouveau details as ballerinas rehearse.

It is said that upon seeing Cuba, Christopher Columbus declared it the most beautiful land that was ever seen – and promptly claimed it for Spain.  It’s a beautiful mix of sandy shores, colors and an exotic atmosphere.  It also showcases various design styles including Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Baroque.  I do hope to visit one day.  You?

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23 Mar

A Day in Washington, D.C.

Last year, we visited Washington, D.C. and while there, saw the National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden.  The Hubs and I were on a double date for the day with two of our favorite friends, Sharon and Chad.  Sharon really wanted to see The Hope Diamond and so we started off at the Smithsonian National Museum of History.

The most famous diamond in the world -- and apparently, only the Mona Visa draws more visitors.

At the Natural History Museum, it was a bit surreal to also see one of the Easter Island statues.  (The Hubs had an altogether different reaction. He thought Dum Dum might want some Gum Gum. Sigh.)  It was the National Gallery after that.  It houses one of the finest collections in the world with paintings, sculptures and decorative arts from artists such as Raphael, Lippi, Pollock and Rothko to name a few.  They also have a gorgeous wide atrium with columns that’s quite a site to see.  Unfortunately, a few of my photographs came out shaky (no tripods and this was before my new anti-shake camera) but here are a few gems.

The frame and a bit of a Lippi masterpiece.

The only Leonardo da Vinci in America. It is entitled "Ginevra de' Benci" and unfortunately, was reduced in size at one point in its history.

This is "Naiad" by Antonio Canova. She is exquisite.

Close-up of a gorgeous William Turner named “Mortlake Terrace”.  Here is the full view.

Beautiful faux woodgrain to hide the unmentionables. Love to spy those!

Speaking of wood, this is a sculpture made out of one full piece.  It is of Saint John of the Cross and it is polychromed, gilded and attributed to Francisco Antonio Gijón.

At the Sculpture Garden, there are many incredible works of art ranging from the headless and disquieting (above, Puellae (Girls) by Magdalena Abakanowicz) to the whimsical (below, Thinker on a Rock by Barry Flanagan).

We ended up at the Smithsonian Castle.

Within it was what was once the Children’s Room.  In 1899, Grace Lincoln Temple was commissioned to design it and it was a beautiful place for children for nearly 45 years.  After that, it was painted over and used for sorely needed storage space and remained that way until it was restored in 1985.  Here you can see Smithsonian conservator Ron Cunningham uncovering the original ceiling mural.  You can see the restoration below.

Close-up of the stencil border.

The original idea for the ceiling was to re-create a fresco by Correggio in Parma, Italy, in which “playful cherubs peered down at the viewer through a leafy arbor”. It was cost-prohibitive and so an inspired variation was designed.  Ms. Temple’s design encompassed a fanciful trellis with grapevines and birds perched against an blue sky.  Do click here to read more of the fascinating story and see here for a pic of Ms. Temple and an artist at work.

I must go and take more complete pics with the new camera! hope you’ve enjoyed this day tour.  D.C. has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to museums, decorative arts and interesting places to visit and eat.  I love visiting at least once per year.  I have covered both the Library of Congress (Part One and Part Two) as well as the U.S. Capitol before.  I do have more D.C. jewels coming up — including Whistler’s Peacock Room.  Have a fantastic weekend!

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