Easily reached from Piazza S. Marco, the Galleria dell’Accademia is particularly famous for its collection of Michelangelo sculptures; it also has a major collection of Florentine paintings from 14th to the 16th c. Founded in 1784 by the will of the Grand Duke Leopoldo of Lorena, the Galleria dell'Accademia had the goal to host a collection of antique and modern paintings and sculptures to make it easier for the students of the nearby Academy of Beau Arts to know and study them.
The seat was in part drawn from the antique building that once belonged to the hospital of S.Matteo, which was adjoined by other contiguous environments of the old convent of San Niccolò in Cafaggio. In 1873 arrives the David, transferred here to subtract it from the cruelty of time and weather, but only in 1882 the masterpiece by Michelangelo will find its position in the Tribune specially projected by Emilio de' Fabris.
Through time the Galleria became famous for its collection of the sculptures by Michelangelo and is enriched by the masterpieces of painting and sculpture by famous and less famous that have transformed Florence into one of the most important capitals of art. Around 1980, the Galleria is endowed by a Gipsoteca located in the Salone dell'Ottocento (19th century hall).
The Galleria is arranged on two floors of which, the ground floor is certainly the most famous and admired one. The pathway opens with the Sala dell'Anticolosso, where at present is placed the original in gesso of The Rape of the Sabine's (1582) by Giambologna.
We can admire some sacred paintings such as Cristo in Pietà by Andrea del Sarto and the Deposition of the Cross by Filippo Lippi. From here you reach the Galleria dei Prigioni, a corridor that hosts a series of incomplete sculptures by Michelangelo: enormous masses of stone within which emerges the scream of the material that wants to become form, through the powerful hand of the great artist.
Among these notable is the famous Pietà da Palestrina, which arrived at the Galleria in 1940. The artwork results disproportionate in its dimensions, so much that the ascription to Michelangelo is uncertain. On the background dominates unchallenged the David in its tribune.
Commissioned in 1501 to Michelangelo by the Florentine Republic, the statue was first placed in piazza della Signoria, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, as a symbol of liberty.
The David represents, in fact the young biblical hero in the moment when he gathers his powers to defeat the giant Goliath. Michelangelo, who was just a little more than 25 years of age was paid 400 scudi for this work of art and used a big marble block already reduced to bad conditions by the efforts of other artists to draw a great sculpture out of it. And from this marble, which by then seemed unusable, came one of the greatest masterpieces of civilization, the height of the Renaissance ideal of the free man and the maker of his own destiny.
In the two lateral wings of the tribune are placed the 16th century examples Florentine art: sacred paintings with bright and sombre colours such as the Disputa sull'Immacolata Concezione (The Dispute of the Immaculate Conception) by Carlo Portelli.
At the end of the left wing of the tribune of the David, in the Salone dell'Ottocento (19th century Hall), is arranged the Gipsoteca dedicated to Lorenzo Bartolini (1777- 1850). The galleria dei gessi was opened to the public only in 1985. Standing out are the about 300 busts representing the upper middle class, through which the skilful portraitist Bartolini expressed himself.
Rich and well illustrated is the mythological theme: Voto dell'Innocenza (the Vote of Innocence), Venus, etc. The pathway, on the ground floor, ends with the Sale Byzantine (Byzantine Halls) where examples of Florentine painting of the 14th century are gathered. In the first of the three halls to catch your attention is L'Albero della Vita (the Tree of Life), illustration of the literary text 'Lignum vitae' (S. Bonaventura) produced by Pacino di Bonaguida, whom in it represents scenes of the life of Jesus and of the and stories from the Genesis.
In the second hall one should admire the Formelle (panels) painted by Taddeo Gaddi around 1330 to decorate the reliquary shrine of the Basilica of Santa Croce. At last, the hall dedicated to Andrea, Nardo and Jacopo di Cione, the three Orcagna brothers, whose sacred paintings are the expression of the Florentine 14th century.
The four halls of the first floor were arranged and opened to the public 1985. The first of them hosts the paintings by Giovanni da Milano and by other Florentine painters. In the second hall are gathered examples of paintings of the second half of the 14th century among which the bright and sombre colours of Andrea Orcagna.
The third hall hosts a selection of art works by Lorenzo Monaco (1370-1423), a famous painter and miniaturist. The fourth and last hall gathers examples of Florentine late-Gothic paintings through the illustrations of Lorenzo Monaco and of the International Gothic with Gherardo Starnina and other of his contemporaries.
For any information:
Via Ricasoli 60 (055 2388609).
Open 8.15am-6.50pm. On Tue 8.15am-10pm. until the 4 September 05.
Closed on Mon.
Admission: 8 euro.
Advance booking: Firenze Musei (055 294883).