Monday, March 28, 2011

"Seven years passed, I stopped going to Paradiso Perduto, I stopped painting. I put aside the fantasy and the wealthy..."*

Last week, I was on vacation on the Gulf Coast of Florida. My family has been vacationing in Sarasota for the last 25+ years, but this year marked my first visit to John Ringling's (of Ringling Bros. circus fame) fabulous winter home, Cà d’Zan.

Built in the Venetian Gothic style in 1924-25, Cà d’Zan (which means "House of John" in the Venetian dialect) is both a relic and a reminder of a time when American opulence was at its pinnacle, and the wealthy tried to outdo each other by recreating the splendor of European palaces in American settings. Sitting right at the edge of Sarasota Bay and certainly as stately as any of the "summer cottages" in Newport, RI, Cà d’Zan is considered to be the "last of the Gilded Age mansions."

The house went through an extensive restoration within the last ten years, and it is simply splendid. The grounds include Mable Ringling's rose garden (the most outstanding American public rose garden of 2006), the "Secret Garden", and some fascinating banyan trees. Also on the property is the John & Mabel Ringling Museum of Art and the Circus Museums. You could easily spend the whole day there.

Zodiac mosaic, Cà d’Zan Path to the Mable Ringling rose garden
Spanish moss Cà d’Zan
Cà d’Zan Cà d’Zan Statue in the banyan trees
Mable Ringling rose garden Secret Garden, Cà d’Zan
IMG_5962 Cà d’Zan

*If Cà d’Zan looks familiar to you, perhaps you recognize it from the Hawke/Paltrow version of Great Expectations. It was Anne Bancroft's house in the film!! (Quote is from the movie...)

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