Ringling’s Ca d’Zan – Part 1 – Sarasota, Florida

One of the benefits of where I live is that I’m about 45 minutes away from one of the most prestigious art galleries and historic sites in the world. I have blogged about this location before but this time it’s different. The venue that I’m talking about is the Ringling’s Ca d’Zan in Sarasota, Florida. When some folks hear the name Ringling, they think of the circus. Granted, that’s where the money came from to build this 35,000 square foot home, but John and Mable were into art in a big way.

Let me explain the events leading up to this post. In one of my Sarasota, Florida photography classes I had a student that I could tell was different…in a good way. Over time she took more classes and we became good friends. Little did I know that she was a docent for the Ca d’Zan at the Ringling Museum. I thought that I would like to take her tour sometime and learn more about the mansion. We were talking on one of the photo shoots and she explained that she was friends with the curator. At first I was not connecting all the dots until she mentioned that she could get us a private shooting session with him. My eyes must have gotten as big as marbles. I have been though this home before, but there are many eyes watching and stanchions (those velvet rope things) all over the place and can jump in your photographs. After a few email correspondences, we got a shoot date on the schedule.

An advantage of having photographed a venue before is that you kind of have an idea what you want to take with you so one is prepared to get the best photos possible. I looked at this as a real estate shot. Big open rooms with tons of details, and it was going to be dark to boot. Normally, I would like to take the time to set up flashes and make it all pretty. However, we only had a certain about of time before the general public was going to be allowed in. I decided to shoot with HDR in mind. This was going to require a tripod. Tripods are not allowed on Ringling property, but I was able to get special permission from the curator. I charged the batteries, cleaned off the camera cards and lenses. I decided to take my widest lens, my Nikon 12mm-24mm lens. Used properly, you can almost see 180 degree view without any warping.

Since there are many photos that I would like to share, I’ll do this in two parts. This post will focus on the ground floor and the following post will feature the rooms upstairs.

 This is an exterior photo of the Ringling's Ca d'Zan in Sarasota, Florida. Photography by Spencer Pullen.Ringling’s Ca d’Zan Exterior – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

It was early in the morning and we decided to get some photos of the outside before the sun lit the face of the home. This would allow for even light and no harsh shadows or highlights. One nice thing about this as there isn’t a person in sight; it’s all about the home.

 This is the back of the Ringling's Ca d'Zan in Sarasota, Florida. Photography by Spencer Pullen.Ringling’s Ca d’Zan Back Exterior – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

This photo was taken later in the day. To get all of the details, I shot nine different frames and blended them together for this composite.

 Spencer Pullen photographed the ball room of the Ringling's Ca d'Zan in Sarasota, Florida.Ballroom – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

As you first enter the home through the solarium, they take you into the ballroom. This is an amazing space, there are details everywhere and not to mention all the artwork that has been painted on the ceiling.

 Spencer Pullen photographed this scene showing the ball room with the steinway piano in the living room. Photographed at the Ringling's Ca d'Zan in Sarasota, Florida.Piano – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

 As you make your way into the living room, you are greeted with this piano. You can also see the adjoining ballroom. When I was there and after the public tours started, there was a pianist playing music from that era. The sound filled the home and it was like John and Mable were home.

 Spencer Pullen photographs a close up of the ceiling with the lac glass in the Ringling's Ca d'Zan in Sarasota, Florida.Living Room Ceiling – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

You can’t help but to look up at the vast space and you’re greeted with a colorful skylight. This is Lac glass, its colors were picked to compliment the colors used in the home. Also you can see all of the detail that went into painting the artwork. Pecky cypress was used as the wood around the home.

 Spencer Pullen captured this angle of the living room at the Ringling's Ca d'Zan.Living Room – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

This photo was taken from the pianos position. Here you can see how vast the space is and just how detailed. I believe that some of the furniture is original. I was told that the chandelier was picked up at an auction for this space. The chandelier was in the Waldorf Astoria before it was torn down to make way for the Empire State building.

 Spencer Pullen captured the amazing space of the living room at the Ringling's Ca d'Zan. Also, the lac glass that is in the ceiling.Living Room Second Floor – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

I know we are focusing on the ground floor for this post, but since we are talking about this space I wanted to include this. I wonder how someone could even think to create all of the details in the home.

 This pipe organ that is located in the Ringling's Ca d"Zan in Sarasota, Florida. It been said that when played that it could be heard across Sarasota Bay. Photo by Spencer Pullen.Organ – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

This organ is not your typical organ. There are a series of pipes that run from the ground floor up to the second floor. No one sees them as a massive tapestry covers them. On the tour, it was mentioned that when this organ was played, it could be heard all the way out to Sarasota’s barrier islands!

 Spencer Pullen photographed the breakfast room of the Ringling's Ca d'Zan in Sarasota, Florida.Breakfast Room – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

Green was the color Mable choose. The chairs were painted green and the chandelier was bought to go with the room. There is a painting on the right side of the photo. It’s a rather grotesque painting. We were told on the tour that if you were a nice guest, you were seated facing the beautiful bay. But, if you won at poker the night before, then you were seated towards the painting. Interesting sense of humor!

 This is John Ringling's bar room in the Ca d'Zan in Sarasota, Florida. Photography by Spencer Pullen.Bar Room – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

Around the corner from the breakfast room is the bar room. This is a neat space, but very dark. If you have been here before, you might notice that this is a different angle. Since we were with the curator, he allowed my docent friend and I into the room. He also opened up the door on the left side showing another prep area. The sun was blazing in at this point, not the best time to photograph this room, but still a neat photo over all.

 These are the doors that lead into the formal dining room of the Ringling's Ca d'Zan. Photography by Spencer Pullen.Formal Dining Room Doors – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

This is another unusual photo; the dining room doors are closed. We wanted to get a detail photo of the woodwork that was on the doors so the curator closed them for us.

 This is a wide overview of the dining room, staircase and living room at the Ringling's Ca d'Zan in Sarasota, Florida. Photo by Spencer Pullen.Wide Photo Of The Dining Room And Staircase – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

Here you can get an idea of the space. The formal dining room starts on the left, followed by the staircase and elevator. This was the first private home elevator installed in Florida! You can also see the backside of the living room from this angle. There isn’t any shortage of artwork here either. It’s displayed on the walls and the ceiling.

 Spencer Pullen photographed this staircase in the Ca d'Zan in Sarasota, Florida.Elevator and Staircase – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

Here is a close up of the elevator and staircase. The staircase seems to be all marble and so is the handrail. I wonder if anyone took a tumble down the stairs? That would really hurt!

That will complete this first post on John and Mable’s lovely home. There is always something to photograph and it’s amazing what they packed into this home to make it enjoyable not only for themselves, but for all of us too.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Well, Spencer—you outdid yourself—again!!! Beautiful, beautiful shots. Thanks for sharing with us.

  2. The photos are beautiful and what you did with the colors, great.

  3. Very cool photos! Love them

  4. Spencer, This shoot is amazing, beyond beautiful! The detail you captured in the furniture as well as the chandeliers. The lighting reached every corner, as well as those ceilings. You did it again. You get the feeling you could step right into the photograph & make yourself at home.

  5. Consistently beautiful blending of vibrant colors and textures within the Spanish architecture brought out through the focus of the individual shots. Very nice! Thanks for sharing, Spencer.

  6. Gorgeous, gorgeous photos. You captured them beautifully as only you can do.
    You are amazing.
    Thanks, Joyce

  7. Favorite is the exterior back of the house. Wow!

  8. Spencer

    I appreciate everyone stopping by and all the nice comments. It was a lot of fun and the subject is pretty much limitless to photograph.



  9. Great shots. The color is phenomenal!

  10. So beautiful – what a wonderful opportunity you had and you certainly made the best of it! Thank you for sharing.


  1. Ringling’s Ca d’Zan – Part 2 – Sarasota, Florida | Spencer Pullen Photography and Training - […] Ringling’s Ca d’Zan. If you missed the first part, you might want to look over that post first: Ringling’s…

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