John Ringling acquired a legion of bronze statues—among them the iconic “David”— from the Chiurazzi Foundry in Italy, which specialized in cast copies of Classical, Renaissance and Baroque originals. They were purchased to adorn the Ritz-Carlton hotel Ringling was building on Longboat Key, but when that venture folded, they became available for his museum.
The Ringling’s David is a few inches shorter than Michelangelo’s original: he stands at about 16.5 feet, whereas Michelangelo’s marble masterpiece is just over 17. Michelangelo Buonarroti carved the original David between 1501-1504. Ringling’s copy was cast between the mid-19th to early 20th century. (Chiurazzi Foundry was founded in 1870.)
Overlooking the Museum of Art courtyard, “David” stands above a structure originally designed to be a crypt to hold two massive marble tombs for John and Mable Ringling, resembling those of Italian Renaissance princes. It would have been set behind ornately carved alabaster screens and bronze doors with butterfly motif stained glass, but the crypt was not complete when Mable died, and was never finished.
Ringling envisioned that his statues would serve as life drawing studies for students of the school of art he was planning to build adjoining the museum. While he did not manage to realize this plan in his lifetime, his museum succeeded in transforming Sarasota into a cultural destination. As the original statue is to Florence, the "David" has become a symbol of the city of Sarasota.