The Galleria dell Academia or Academia Gallery was founded by Pietro Leopoldo, Grand Duke of Lorena, in 1784. The idea was to create a gallery where students attending the nearby Academy of Fine Arts could study the works of past masters. To this end, he converted the friary Hospital San Matteo and the Convent of San Nicalo di Cafaggio into the Academia Gallery.
One work of art dominates the Academia Gallery - - Michelangelo's statue of David. In the late 15th century, a plan was proposed to place 12 statues of figures from the Old Testament along the roof line of the Cathedral of Florence. As part of this project, a large block of marble was brought to the cathedral yard in order to be carved into a statue of David. Over the next quarter century, several artists inspected the block but all concluded that there were too many imperfections in the stone. In 1501, the 26 year-old Michelangelo volunteered to cave the statue.
Michelangelo worked on the block for three years, outside and in all types of weather. When he was finished, it was agreed by all that the statue was too important to be placed atop the cathedral and a committee, which included Leonardo Da Vinci and Sandro Bottticelli, was formed to decide where to place the statue. Finally, it was decided to place it in front of the city's town hall, the Palazzo Vechio. It took four days for 40 men to move the six ton statue from the Cathedral to this site.
In 1873, it was decided to move the statue to the Academia Gallery in order to protect it from further damage by the elements. It was also hoped that the statue would form the nucleus of a Michelangelo museum.
The statue now stands in its own enclave at the end of a corridor. Visitors can walk around the statue and thus see it from all angles.
David is not the only important work in the Academia Gallery. In the corridor leading up to David are four of the “Prisoners.” These are unfinished statues that Michelangelo started to carve for the tomb of Pope Julius II. There is also a statue of St. Matthew by the same artist and an unfinished Pieta that some believe is by Michelangelo.
The Academia Gallery has a collection of Florentine paintings including works by Botticelli and Filippino Lippi as well as an altarpiece by Giotto. There is also a collection of 19th century plaster casts once studied by art students.
In addition to objects from the visual arts, the Academia Gallery has a collection of musical instruments including the Medici Violin by Antonio Stradavari.
During the tourist season, there are often lines waiting to enter the Academia Gallery. It has nearly a million and a half visitors a year. Consequently, purchasing tickets in advance is advisable.
For information about visiting, see the Academia Gallery's website.
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Above: David by Michelangelo.
Above: Statues by Mchelangelo: St. Matthew (left) and a Prisoner (right).
Below left: A pieta perhaps by Michelangelo.
Below right: Part of the collection of casts.
Places to see art - - Florence, Italy - - Academia Gallery