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Historic Architecture Spotlight - Arches and Ceilings of The Ringling Museum of Art

Arches have been part of architectural history for what seems an eternity. Not only do they span distances to support bridges or drastically enhance cathedrals but they also feature in architecture across the globe - adding style and elegance to both ancient and modern architecture. 

This ancient architectural structure, used by Mesopotamians and Romans, is still used today. Historic Estates, such as the Ringling Museum , showcase how versatile arches are and how they can be used.

Ringling Museum of Art Sarasota, FL - Historic Architecture
Aerial View of the Ringling Museum of Art - Source:

About The Ringling Museum of Art

Located in Sarasota, Florida, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is the official art museum of the state. It was established in 1927 to serve as the legacy of Mable and John Ringling. 

When he passed, John Ringling willed the property, the art, and $1.2 million to the people of Florida. The only instruction was that no one can change the name of the museum. 

The museum itself contains a wealth of paintings, sculptures, and decorative pieces from around the world. It has 21 different galleries of European paintings, antiquities from Cyprus, and art from Asia and America. Some of the most valuable pieces of art the museum houses include a world-renowned collection of paintings by Peter Paul Rubens .

The Various Arches and Ceilings of The Ringling Museum of Art

The Ringling Museum stands as a testimony to the power of architecture. 

However, John Ringling and his wife Mable made a much more conscious effort in their incorporation of arches. It mimicked Venetian architecture and made use of an endless array of beautiful arches. 

Half-Circle Arches

The entrance of the Ringling Museum greets you with three half-circle arches . These architectural features also surround the courtyard with pillars separating each arch. This creates a flow of open space through which you can easily access the beautiful courtyard. 

Derived from Spanish  and Tuscan architecture, the half-circle arch is quite an interesting arch to use. The rise of the half-circle arch is often limited to opening larger than 6ft. So, finding a pure half-circle arch is quite difficult, as it’s usually mixed with an elliptical arch. However, its use in the Ringling Museum of Art is fitting as it is such a large, grand space. 

John and Mable Ringling Art Museum Courtyard Half-Circle Arches
Half-Circle Arches surround the courtyard at the Ringling Museum - Source: Wikipedia

Groin Vault Ceiling

Spanning from Palaces in Rome to Cathedrals in the Middle Ages, the Groin Vault Ceiling is a staple of Western Culture. It can immediately open up space. 

It features two, ribless barrel vaults that connect over the support of columns. In a way, these curves create direction and flow. So, it is an understandable addition to the walkways behind the half-circle arches of the Ringling Museum’s courtyard. 

Groin Vault Ceiling in Ringling Museum Courtyard Loggia
Beautiful Groin Vault ceilings enhance the courtyard arches - Source:

Coved Ceilings

If you want to add some elegance and softness, a coved ceiling is the way to go. This is a design that creates a partial curve where the wall meets the ceiling. It can be seen in many of the rooms in the Ringling Museum. 

This style is actually quite typical of Middle Eastern Architecture and can create dome-like effects. A room where this is particularly effective in the museum is Ruben’s Gallery. The coved ceiling only emphasizes and supports the beauty of the actual room and the classical paintings within.

Ringling Museum of Art Gallery Coved Ceilings
Coved Ceilings surround a gallery at the Ringling Museum - Source: Expedia

Window Arches

The history of windows seems to date almost as far back as the history of arches. It only makes sense that the Ancient Romans wanted to join the two together. 

An arched window is a beautiful and elegant way to open up any room and bring in light. Ancient Cathedrals made use of these large arched windows to use light as an almost decorative element. It only makes sense that the Ringling Museum followed suit. 

Ringling Museum Exterior Window Arches
Arched Windows at the Ringling Museum - Credit: Sarasota Magazine

Ogee Arch

Originating somewhere between the Middle East, England, and Venice, the Ogee Arch is perhaps one of the most beautiful arches. 

Ogee Arches are formed by two concave, decorative curves. Making more of an S Shape than an arched opening. Historians estimate that the arch originated in Persia or Morocco. However, the Ogee Arch is a particular favorite among Venetians. 

This makes its use in the museum understandable as the Ringling’s were passionate about Venetian Architecture. An Ogee Arch forms the entrance to the museum.

An Ogee Arch at The Ringling Museum Entrance
A beautiful Ogee Arch welcomes you to the Ringling Museum - Source: Travel Pockets

Arched Wall Niche

An arched wall niche simply serves a decorative purpose. Introduced in Ancient Rome, these arches were built into homes to display statues, vases, or other decorations. 

No matter the architectural design, these arched elements add depth to a room - creating a space for not only decoration but a statement. The Rubens Gallery in the Ringling Museum of Art makes use of a wall niche to display a statue amongst the world-renowned paintings. 

Arched Wall Niche in Ringling Museum Gallery
A classic Arched Wall Niche sandwiched between two amazing paintings - Source: Expedia

Elliptical Arch

Elliptical arches are difficult to build, making them a rare commodity in the arch world. 

The elliptical arch was first introduced to the modern world during the middle ages where only the greatest stonemasons would make them. In fact, their first job wasn’t decorative at all but more practical. They were used to help support bridges. 

However, the Ringling Museum’s incarnation of elliptical arches makes it almost elegant. These arches immediately open up the spaces in the estate and make a statement of their decorative elegance. 

Ca' d’Zan

Decorated in almost an entirely Gothic style , the Ca’ d’Zan was the Ringlings' winter home. 

This waterfront home features many types of arches and architectural elements. There are arches in the dining room, game room, and bedroom. There are even arches within arches! This estate takes the elegance and opulence of the 1920s and rounds it off with the edginess of the gothic era. 

Ca' d'Zan at Ringling Museum of Art Sarasota
Aerial view of Ca' d'Zan at the Ringling Museum - Source:

Final Thoughts on The Famous Arches and Ceilings of The John Ringling Museum

The Ringling Museum of Art not only stands as a monument of the inclusion of arches in architecture but continuously pushes the boundaries of art and architecture.

Although its use of arches is quite extravagant, it rounds off the estate to make it the masterpiece it is. Here, arches are used in almost the same way as an art collector would show off their paintings and sculptures - making the building a glorious testament to architecture. 

Even though everyone can't live in an estate like John and Mable Ringling once did, everyone can add a little flair to their home by adding custom archways and ceilings. If you want to learn more about how easy it is to accomplish that, don't hesitate to contact us and we'll be happy to help!

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