The Star Attraction at the Galleria dell’Accademia is Michelangelo’s David:
For most visitors to Florence, the star attraction of the Galleria dell’Accademia is Michelangelo’s David, a representation of the Biblical hero who took on Goliath and killed the fearsome giant with his sling. The Galleria dell’Accademia is a part of the Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze, or Academy of Fine Art of Florence, whose history can be traced back to the first drawing school to be established in Europe under the Medici patronage.
Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze
Florence has a long artistic history and the earliest professional organization of art can be traced back to medieval times when artists and sculptors belonged to guilds. In 1562, under the patronage of Cosimo I de’Medici, the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (Academy of the Arts of Drawing) was established. This was the first academy of drawing in Europe and its members included the most eminent artists and art academics of the time. Amongst its tasks were the protection of the cultural heritage of Tuscany as well as the teaching of the arts and sciences.
In 1784 Pietro Leopoldo, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, decreed that all the art schools in Florence should be combined under one roof and he created the Accademia di Belle Arti to provide art education and free public art. To assist in the teaching, an art gallery was set up within the Accademia which included a collection statues and original plaster casts such as Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women. Today, some 1,200 students from all over the world study at the Accademia di Belle Arti, whose tutors include eminent art professors from all over the world.
Galleria dell’AccademiaAlthough the Accademia di Belle Arti is a distinguished art academy, for most visitors, it is the many art galleries that attract attention. There is an extensive painting collection, with mostly religious paintings ranging from the 13th through the 16th centuries. Not least are the 24 panels by Taddeo Gaddi depicting scenes from the life of Jesus. The Gallery also offers works by Uccello, Ghirlandaio, del Sarto and Botticelli. The Cassone Adimari, painted in the 1440s by Lo Scheggia, continues to attract a wide audience. Many of the paintings were collected for the specific purpose of providing the students with old masters to emulate and there are several here that serve that purpose well.
But, unquestionably, the works on display that attract the largest crowds are the busts and sculptures, and in particular Michelangelo’s David. Off the end of the left wing is a 19th century hall with one wall that is lined with plaster casts, busts and sculpture, which provide students with many examples to follow. Along the main hallway are several unfinished works of the great master, Michelangelo. The Four Prisoners (or Slaves) provide a glimpse into the working technique of one of the greatest artists in history.
At the end, on a specially constructed platform called the tribune, stands the main attraction: Michelangelo’s David. The sculpture was moved from the Piazza del Signoria in 1873 to preserve it after four centuries in the sun and air. Unfortunately, being indoors didn’t protect David from damage. In 1991, a deranged man attacked David with a hammer and managed to damage several toes before being stopped. That’s why David now stands behind a Plexiglas barrier. But as the 5.17 metre high sculpture is set atop a high pedestal, the more than life-sized statue with all its muscles and veins can be viewed easily as you jostle your way through the crowd.
Michelangelo was not yet 30 years old when he finished the sculpture in 1504 and it is easily the most famous piece of sculpture in the world. We’ve visited the Galleria dell’Accademia a few times over the past years and never tire of admiring this masterpiece. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed these days but we have some old photos from previous visits. We didn’t get a plausible reason from our tour guide as to why photography is now not permitted.
If you’re visiting the Accademia on your own and during the peak summer season, consider booking your Accademia Florence ticket in advance as the ticket queue is usually quite long.
Via Ricasoli 60,