Ringling Museum unveils giant circus mural donated by Feld Entertainment

wtatangelo@bradenton.comJanuary 18, 2013 

MANATEE -- Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus' parent company Feld Entertainment, which is opening a major new facility in Ellenton, has donated its "Greatest Show on Earth" mural to the Ringling Museum.

The artwork, which captures many of the circus' greatest personalities, ranging from aerialists and clowns to high-wire artists, will be unveiled Saturday in Sarasota.

The mural created in 1990 by American artist William Woodward is 42 feet long by 22 feet high. It showcases 45 performers, 12 elephants, 11 tigers and a unicorn plus seven banners. Woodward traveled across the country with Ringling Bros. from 1989 to 1990.

"'The Greatest Show on Earth' impressed and inspired visitors to our company's headquarters for more than 20 years," Kenneth Feld, the company's chief executive officer, said in a statement.

"Since Feld Entertainment is moving our global operations to a new site in Ellenton, not far from the Ringling Museum, we thought it fitting that the legacy of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey shown in the mural belonged in the Ringling Museum."

Among the notable figures captured on the mural are Gunther Gebel-Williams, who was known as the "Lord of the Rings" and the "Greatest Animal Trainer of All Time." He worked with tigers, elephants, horses, leopards and many other animals while performing with Ringling Bros. from 1969 through 1990.

Lou Jacobs, one of the world's most famous clowns, and famed trapeze artist Flying Miguel Vazquez are also among the stars featured on the mural.

The installation at the Ringling Museum began in October, as a team of painters and conservators, including Woodward himself, worked to apply the painting to the wall of the Tibbals Learning Center, part of the Circus Museum at the Ringling Museum.

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057.Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo.

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