The Galleria dell’Accademia, David’s museum
Located nearby the Academy of Fine Arts of Florence (Accademia delle Belle Arti di Firenze), the Galleria dell’Accademia is one of the most important Florentine and Italian art museums; despite the name it isn’t related (today) with the Academy of Fine Arts.
Compared to the Uffizi, the main art museum in Florence, the Galleria dell’Accademia is smaller and more specialized, having a large collection – mostly from the 14th to the 17th century – of paintings made by Florentine artists. It contains 7 Michelangelo’s sculptures.
The Museum of the musical instruments (Museo degli strumenti musicali) is part of the Galleria dell’Accademia since 2001 and there you can find musical instruments made by Antonio Stradivari, Bartolomeo Cristofori and Niccolò Amati. In 2016 this museum had 1.461.185 visitors.
Today the Galleria dell’Accademia is the fourth museum of Italy per number of visitors.
The history of the Galleria dell’Accademia (Gallery of the Academy)
Founded in 1784 by the Great Duke of Tuscany Pietro Leopoldo, the Galleria dell’Accademia was born as a place for the students of the nearby Academy of Fine Arts. Here they could find a gallery with original works and copies that could be used as models.
The first intention was to create a museum dedicated to Michelangelo with original drawings and sculptures, in order to celebrate the fourth centenary of his birth. The Galleria dell’Accademia containing 7 Michelangelo’s sculptures, is the first museum of the world per number of his works.
The most famous is the David, originally situated in Piazza della Signoria (today there is a replica). This sculpture was moved to the Galleria dell’Accademia for reasons of conservation: its outdoor location was dangerous for the statue, especially because of the weather conditions.
In the Galleria dell’Accademia you can find other Michelangelo’s works, including the unfinished Prisoners, made for the tomb of Pope Julius II and a St. Matthew statue.
In 1939 a Pietà attributed to Michelangelo was found in the Barberini chapel in Palestrina, and joined the Galleria dell’Accademia’s collection; today the experts consider this attribution to be dubious.
Among the Florentine paintings from the 13th to the 16th century that you can find at the Galleria dell’Accademia there are works by Sandro Botticelli, Paolo Uccello, Andrea del Sarto, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi, Perugino, Pontormo and Bronzino.
At the Galleria dell’Accademia you can also admire the original full-size plaster model of the High Renaissance Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Woman (whose original is at the Loggia dei Lanzi).
The Galleria dell’Accademia houses also the collection of beautiful Russian icons, collected by the Grand Dukes of the House of Lorraine, of which Pietro Leopoldo was one.
Considered a masterpiece of Renaissance, the David is a marble statue created by the Tuscan artist Michelangelo between 1501 and 1504. It is 5.17 meter tall (17 feet) and it represents a standing male nude, the Biblical hero David, one of the most represented subject in the Florentine art.
This statue was originally commissioned as part of a series of statues that represented prophets, to put along the roof-line of the Florence Cathedral.
The David was instead placed outside of the Old Palace, the seat of the Florentine’s government in Piazza della Signoria; it was unveiled the 8th September (the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary) of 1504.
Michelangelo’s David replaced Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes a bronze statue that represented the theme of heroic resistence. It took 4 days to move the statue from Michelangelo’s workshop.
This statue, because of the nature of the hero it represented, soon came to symbolize the Republic of Florence because it was seen as the symbol of the defense of civil liberties. At that time Florence was an independent city-state threatened by the hegemony of the Medici and by the rival states.
In 1873 the statue was removed from the Piazza della Signoria and displayed in the Galleria dell’Accademia, the replica was placed in 1910.
In 1991 Piero Cannata attacked the statue with a hammer and he damaged the toes of the left foot.
If you want to know more about the Galleria dell’Accademia museum and the Michelangelo’s David, join one of the tours offered by the Free Tour Florence – Another Florence association.