Sunday, November 2, 2008

Scalera, Michelle A.. Cà d’Zan: the Restoration of the Ringling Mansion.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. 2006. c.66p. Ed. by Deborah W. Walk. illus. photogs. bibliog. ISBN 978-0-916758-53-0. $14.95.

In this concise, nicely-illustrated book, Scalera (Chief Conservator, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art) tells the story of the six year, three-phased, $15 million restoration of John and Mable Ringling’s winter dream home in Sarasota, Florida. Known as the Cà d’Zan, the “House of John” in Venetian dialect or the “House of Zany,” the mansion, which today is a museum owned by the state of Florida and administered by Florida State University, was commissioned by John Ringling (1866-1936) and his wife Mable (1875-1929) during the 1920s. Built for $1.5 million, it was designed by the architect Dwight James Baum in an eclectic style and was completed in 1926 with 41 rooms, 15 baths, four stories, and an 8,000 square foot front terrace and dock overlooking Sarasota Bay. It fell into gradual disrepair after the death of John Ringling, when the fate of the Ringling estate continued to be litigated and ownership passed to the state of Florida. In six chapters, three of which provide historical background and three of which describe the conservation efforts in considerable detail, Scalera takes readers on a stage-by-stage, room-by-room tour of the mansion and its restoration projects. While the sections of the book detailing the three phases of the restoration, which started in 1996 and were completed in 2002, are quite technical, the author manages to describe them in attractive and appealing ways. The before and after pictures by Giovanni Lunardi Photography of Sarasota as well as archival photographs further make the text understandable and interesting to general readers captivated by the magnificent story of the restoration of an architectural masterpiece and historic landmark. Including appendices consisting of a floor plan, project donors, restoration facts, a list of companies and professionals involved, as well as a selected bibliography, this publication is highly recommended for academic, special, and large public libraries with research collections in art and architecture. General readers and museum visitors who merely are interested in a room-by-room tour of the mansion may prefer to consult the Cà d’Zan: Inside the Ringling Mansion by Aaron H. De Groft and David C. Weeks (The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. 2004. ISBN 978-0-916758-47-9. $14.95). Personal copy. Availability: