Accademia delle belle Arti

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Michelangelo’s David

Florence - David Michelangelo - detail
Florence - David Michelangelo  -  frontal view

Possibly one of the most renowned sculptures from the Italian Renaissance is Michelangelo's David, a marble masterpiece created in the early 16th century. Over 5 meters tall, the idealized nude figure of the Biblical hero David towers over visitors from its pedestal within the Accademia Gallery, in Florence.

Made of smooth white marble imported from Carrara –a feat at the time, considering the size and weight of the block, and the distance between Carrara and Florence– the David was only one of a series of statues of biblical figures that would have been installed on the roof of the Duomo di Firenze.

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Originally commissioned by the art guild of the cathedral in question, the guild quickly realized that the sculpture’s size was too great to actually raise it to the roof. Instead, it was placed in the Piazza della Signoria, directly in front of Palazzo Vecchio, as a political symbol. In 1873, the original statue had to be moved from the Piazza to its current home in the Accademia Gallery in order to preserve it from further damage (both human and natural); the replica that took its place in front of the Palazzo Vecchio was not erected until 1910.

Today, the sculpture of David is one of the most famous silhouettes in the world, with replicas of all sizes and materials populating all sorts of locales, from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to casinos, hotels, resorts and sometimes even people’s homes.

Academia Gallery

Florence - Academia Gallery
Florence - Academia GalleryFlorence - Academia Gallery - statuesFlorence - David Michelangelo - detail

Founded in 1562 by Cosimo I de’Medici, with the help of artist and architect Giorgio Vasari, the Accademia di Belle Arti was the first institution of its kind. The Accademia Gallery, located in the same complex, was later founded in 1784 by Pietro Leopoldo, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Home to an impressive art collection by various Italian masters, its most famous piece by far is Michelangelo's David. Created in the early 16th century, this sculpture is a marble masterpiece that stands over five meters tall, towering above visitors from its pedestal. Originally meant as one of a series of biblical figures to decorate the roof of the Duomo di Firenze, it was deemed too heavy by the time it was completed and was instead installed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, in the Piazza della Signoria, in 1504. The David was not moved to its current place in the Accademia Gallery until 1873 to preserve it from both human and weather damage. The replica that now takes its place in the Piazza was added in 1910.

Things to see

Some of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures, sketches and lesser known art can also be found in the gallery. Other works housed by the Academia Gallery include Florentine paintings by artists such as Paolo Uccello, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Sandro Botticelli; several Florentine Gothic paintings; and even Giambologna’s original full-scale plaster for “The Rape of the Sabine Women” (one of the sculptures displayed in the Loggia dei Lanzi).