After the Cathedral (the Duomo or Dome) and the Uffizi Gallery, the third must-see site in Florence is definitely The Academy Gallery (Galleria dell’Accademia) housing Michelangelo’s masterpieces: the statue of David, the Slaves and the statue of Saint Matthew.
The building in which the Accademia Gallery is housed resembles a massive Latin rite Catholic church and part of the museum is found in a former medieval hospital and monastery. The most important part of the gallery’s exhibit includes a set of sculptures created by Michelangelo.
The gallery also houses a collection of late Medieval and Renaissance paintings, most of which either depict biblical scenes, or are based on Catholic piety and sacramentality. A newer collection of sculptures from the 1800s is also on display.
The Accademia del Disegno was the first academy of drawing in Europe, and was founded in the middle of the sixteenth century by Vasari, Bronzino and Ammannati. Relocated from Santissima Annunziata to Via Ricasoli, it became a wider and more general academy of arts and was christened the Accademia delle Belle Arti.
Twenty years later, courtesy of the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo, the school gained its own nearby gallery, the Galleria dell’Accademia, current home of David.
The Michelangelo’s statue of David was commissioned in 1501 by the Cathedral Works Committee (Opera Del Duomo). At the age of 26, Michelangelo was given a leftover block of marble that came from the mountains of Carrara, one which had previously been worked on by various other artists. The piece was intended as a monumental work, a testimony to the city’s republican pride, not one for close confinement, but was moved to the Accademia in 1873 (from outside the Palazzo Vecchio, where a replica now stands ) to protect it from the ravages of time and the weather.
Viewed as a gallery piece, David looks odd; his upper body and head are both out of proportion, and out of keeping with the Renaissance obsession with the perfect harmony of form and proportion. However, it’s argued that this is yet more evidence of Michelangelo’s bravura – not only is David an incredible feat of technical skill, the scale is deliberate, as from the original viewpoint of the viewer the upper body would have been much farther away.
The gallery is also home to another remarkable work by Michelangelo, the unfinished piece entitled “Slaves”, and there are large picture galleries as well as other works of sculpture to be seen; however, there can be no doubting the true crowd-pleaser, the world famous image of Florence, David.