Appraisal of Contents The John and Mable Ringling Museum and the Ringling Venetian Palace

New York: Jonce I. McGurk 1938. First Edition. Typescripts on folio sheets, pp. [ff 4] + ff 59 + [ff 2] + ff 25 + ff 14 + [ff 1] + ff 126 + [ff 127-128]; bound together in drab buckram (8 1/2 x 13 inches). Binding somewhat soiled and lightly worn; hinges reinforced; paper slightly browned throughout; else a clean, sound and very good copy. Near Fine. Cloth. [27268]


Typescript copy of an extensive personal property appraisal for the Ringling estate, with additional correspondence bound in. The appraisal, which employed experts from several fields, was supervised by New York art dealer and appraiser Jonce I. McGurk. McGurk (1875-1947), principal adviser to Percy Rockefeller. McGurk advised Andrew Mellon and many other art collectors of the era as well. The John Ringling collections, based in Sarasota, Florida, represented McGurk's largest appraisal project, and perhaps the largest personal property appraisal project up to its time.

There are several parts to the appraisal, beginning with an “Inventory of Paintings in the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art” (dated January 11, 1937). Other sections include paintings at the Ringling residence and the John Ringling Hotel. Each page of typescript gives an inventory number, the name of the painter (if known), a description of the painting and the estimated value. A running total appears at the bottom of each page. While the Ringling collection was rich in Old Masters paintings (especially Peter Paul Rubens), many fine works by later impressionist and American painters were also represented in the collection. Altogether there are nearly 700 paintings, nearly all valued individually.

Besides the paintings, other appraised artworks include more than 150 examples of statuary, bronze figures and objets d'art both inside and beyond the museum walls. Significant also were a number of marble columns and arches in the museum loggias, many with mosaic inlays or other decorative elements. The combined value of the paintings, statuary, bronzes, and architectural elements is recorded at over $11 million.

The second major section of the personal property appraisal concerns the Ringling collection of “Cypriote & Classical Antiquities formerly in the Metropolitian Museum of Art.” Antiquities expert Karl Freund advised John Ringling in the acquisition of many dozens of pieces de-accessioned by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and sold by Anderson Galleries in in 1928. Freund's portion of the appraisal appears to be largely a record of the sales prices paid by Ringling at the auction. The collector purchased approximately one-quarter of the lots sold in two sales during four different sessions. The combined total value of the purchases is recorded as being over $143,000.

The third major section of the appraisal takes up the contents of the “Ringling Venetian Palace” and “art objects” at other locations. Accompanying this part of the appraisal is a photostat reproduction of a typed letter signed by architect Dwight James Baum, designer of Ringling's Venetian Palace. The personal property involved is mostly furniture and other decorative arts, of which there is an extensive inventory list with individual values attached, as well as running totals at the bottom of every page. The objects are listed under the respective rooms or halls in which they are to be found, including servants' rooms and store rooms. Besides furniture, furnishings and objets d'art, there are also many dozens of books listed from Ringling's personal library (mostly art-related books). Beyond the house itself, there are a number of decorative and ornamental pieces for the yard and gardens, including small statues and sculptural items.

More than 20 pages of the appraisal are devoted to “books in library store house (garage)” – thousands of titles and sets (many not listed) not part of the main library within the house, but nevertheless on bookcases in an on-site storage facility. The books comprise what may be characterized as a “gentleman's library” of the nineteenth century. Relatively few books from this portion of the library would be “collectible” today. Subjects include literature, history, philosophy, Greek & Roman classics, law, exploration and travel, science, reference, etc. The total appraised value of this part of the library is under one thousand dollars.

The final segment of the personal property appraisal is devoted mostly to household furnishings and “smalls,” including statuettes (for house and garden) and other decorative objects for house and garden. Some of the most valuable of these include rugs, chandeliers, lighting fixtures, ivories, bronzes, and painted wall and ceiling canvasses.

Totals for the value of the museum art, the Cypriote art, and contents of the house, plus the cost of the museum building, the house itself, and all exterior elements – not including the museum and palace grounds – was approximately $14.725 million at the time. This copy of the appraisal is signed by Jonce McGurk, and names all the contributing experts in an attached affidavit.

"There is nothing in the history of the Art World ever appeared wherein an appraisal of this kind is recorded, that compares in such vast proportions, and the more vitally important comprehensiveness, of such great value to the students of the different branches of the arts" (foreword)

We are aware of one copy of this appraisal as it is referenced in Amanda Ellen Meter's "John Ringling: Story of a Capitalist" in her thesis for the Florida State University.

Price: $750.00

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