Time running out to see ‘Watermelon Regatta’ at Ringling Museum of Art

Over seven years ago, conservators at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art began a comprehensive examination of the Watermelon Regatta, a fascinating early 18th-century Italian painting that had suffered significant damage. This extended study led to a painstaking conservation treatment that commenced in 2017 and has been carried out intermittently since that time. The painting conservators at The Ringling were assisted by several conservation Interns and Fellows, as well as contracted conservators. 

This oil painting on canvas has been attributed to The Master of the Fertility of the Egg, a name used by art historians for an as-yet unidentified painter active in northern Italy around 1700. The Master’s works typically represent the world reversed, with animals doing things that humans do. His absurd compositions satirize the madness, vanity, and ridiculous folly of human life, but in a spirit of comic levity and fun.

The Watermelon Regatta is part of The Ringling’s permanent collection of European paintings. Apart from its artistic value, the painting has historical significance as it was purchased in 1950 by The Ringling’s first director A. Everett “Chick” Austin, Jr., who donated the painting to the Museum in 1951. After receiving a partial treatment several decades ago and spending many years in storage, the painting required major restoration before it could be displayed in the Museum. 

“We are pleased to be able to display the Watermelon Regatta in the Museum after so many years dedicated to studying and restoring it.” Barbara A. Ramsay, Chief Conservator at The Ringling, said. “Despite the significant damage incurred by the painting, much original paint had survived, and we have been able to restore the Watermelon Regatta to a state that represents more closely the intent of the artist.” 

This painting and its conservation efforts were the focus of The Ringling’s 2016 Giving Challenge, supported by numerous local donors. Conservation work was more recently supported by the David A. Straz, Jr. Foundation. 

The Watermelon Regatta will be on view in Gallery 12 of The Ringling Museum of Art through May 19, 2024, and is included in regular museum admission.

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