Top 5 Art Works to see in the Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence

September 27, 2014
Enrico Catani

The Accademia Gallery (“Accademia della Galleria” in Italian) is the second most visited museum in Florence (the first being the Uffizi Gallery) and every year is assaulted by thousands and thousands of tourists.
Instituted in 1784, the Accademia Gallery is surprisingly small compared to other famous museums in Italy, but it boasts an impressive artistic heritage, especially because it houses what is considered the most important sculpture in the world: the David, by artist Michelangelo Buonarroti.
But even if the vast majority of people come simply for this giant marble statue, there are several other interesting masterpieces housed in the Accademia Gallery. So, here is a list, brought you by ItalyXP, of those that you cannot miss if you visit Florence!

1. David, by Michelangelo

As we’ve written above, this is probably the world’s most famous sculpture, as well as the most beautiful: over 5 meters tall, the David is an absolute masterpiece of Renaissance, which attracts millions of tourists from all over the world.
The sculpture was carved from an enormous block of white marble from the Apuan Alps of Carrara, a town of Northern Tuscany. Originally, the stone was intended to crown the structure of the Cathedral, but in 1501 it was carved by Italian sculptor Michelangelo, becoming the glorious statue we can admire today. The work ended in 1504, when the David was placed in Piazza della Signoria right in front of the Palazzo Vecchio (where is currently standing a replica of the original). It stood there for 350 years, until in 1873 it was moved into the Accademia Gallery in order to prevent damage.
This outstanding sculpture depicts the biblical hero David before facing thegiant Goliath: the tension of the muscles and the emotional involvement revealed by the intense look in a prelude of the movement makes the honed marble feels like alive. Michelangelo, master of anatomical perfection, had ingeniously sculpted his silhouette with some slightly distorted features, such as an overly enlarged head, so that it would have appeared perfectly proportional when admired from below.
A guided tour of the Accademia Gallery, private or in group,  will give you the opportunity not only to avoid long queues (thanks to the skip-the-line tickets!) but also to carefully observe the intricate anatomical details and fully understand the extraordinary Michelangelo’s interpretation of the David: emblem of the ideals of the republican Florence in the early 16th century, but also archetype of the classic male beauty. Wouldn't you agree with that?

2. Prisoners (or Slaves), by Michelangelo

The Hall of the Prisoners is an area of the Accademia Gallery that takes its name from the four large sculptures of male nudes known as the Prisoners (or the “Slaves”) that were designed by Michelangelo for the tomb of Pope Julius II.
The fame of these four massive statues, considered by scholars among the finest examples of Michelangelo’s career is mainly due to their unfinished state. It is claimed that Michelangelo has intentionally left its sculptures incomplete, referring to the Platonic ideal (very much in vogue in Florence at that time), representing the eternal struggle of human beings to free themselves from the bonds and physical weight of the matter. However, these marble sculptures have been interpreted in many ways and it’s possible that the intention of Michelangelo was to give the viewers the freedom to explore the artwork and assign their own meaning.
The four statues were originally used by the Grand Duke Cosimo I de 'Medici to adorn the corner of the Buontalenti cave, located in the Boboli Gardens, and were moved in the Accademia Gallery in 1909.
The Hall of a Prisoners is better to be visited through a guided tour, to learn all the intriguing secrets around those fascinating statues.

3. The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Giambologna

This world-famous masterpiece was realized by the Flemish sculptor Giambologna, pseudonym of Jean de Boulogne, incorrectly known as Giovanni da Bologna. The original statue of the “Rape of the Sabine Women” is located under the balcony (Loggia dei Lanzi) in Piazza della Signoria, but the plaster cast model used for the creation of the figure can be admire at the Accademia Gallery, displayed central-stage in the Hall of the Colossus.
Restored in 2013, this wonderful 16th century sculpture is an example of brilliant technique and talent: the cast depicts three figures connected by a serpentine-shaped movement, with an old man kneeling, trapped by the legs of a young man, who is lifting a woman into the air.
This complex human vortex, more than 4 meters tall, seems to invite the viewer to move around the statue and admire infinite details from different points of view. Also, a considerable feature of this artwork is that it was carved from a single block of marble, making the “Rape of the Sabine Women” universally acknowledged as the greatest Giambologna’s masterpiece.

4. Tree of Life, by Pacino di Buonaguida

The Tree of Life is one of the most interesting paintings in the Accademia Gallery. It is a large painting realized in tempera and gold by artist Pacino di Buonaguida, dating back in the early 14th century.
In this extraordinary masterpiece, the artist depicts a typical Franciscan subject: the Genesis of creation and fall, in this case representing the Cross of Jesus as the Tree of Life, which is the symbol of God’s provision for immortality in the Garden of Eden. At the centre of the painting stands the crucified Christ, while in a cave at the root of the tree lies the devil, indicating that Christ’s death sprouted from the seed of Adam and Eve’s sin. From the trunk sprout twelve branches (six branches from each side), to be read from left to right and from bottom to top, symbolizing the twelve Apostles of Jesus. From each branch hang in turn four medallions representing biblical events.
By painting the Crucifixion as the central image, Pacino di Buonaguida establishes the virtues of Jesus but that the Tree/Cross contains within it the entire wideness of the divine plan for redemption.
A full explication of this rich painting on this article would definitely reduce its greatness. Instead, we’d suggest admiring it yourself through a tour of the Accademia Gallery, with an art expert that will answer all your questions, helping you to enter more deeply into the mysteries of this incredible painting.

5. Coronation of the Virgin, by Jacopo di Cione

Recently restored, this majestic golden panel was realized by artist Jacopo di Cione in 1372. Originally located in the former headquarters of the Mint, close to the Palazzo dei Priori, the painting was then moved to the Uffizi Gallery and, finally, in the Galleria dell'Accademia where it can be admired today.
In the scene depicted in the panel is the coronation of the Virgin surrounded by the Saints, a biblical episode where a deep religiousness merges with a strong civic and political meaning: the coronation of the Holy Mary is the symbol of the Christian devotional faith to God, as well as a symbol of the devotion of Florentines to Florence and the noble families that owned the city at that time, which are represented in the golden painting through the Royal Arms carved in the golden frame.
The Coronation of the Virgin is an absolute masterpiece, dazzling in its preciousness, from the massive presence of gold. Not to mention the fabrics and drapery of the detailed figures. This panel is a unique piece in its genre, which will let you discover a lot of interesting facts about the history of Florence.

There are many ways to visit the Accademia Gallery, and ItalyXP offers several eXPeriences that include this incredible museum in the itinerary:
If you want to enjoy a full immersion in art you might want to check our Tour of the Accademia Gallery and the Uffizi Gallery, which combines the two greatest museums of Florence in one unique excursion.
Would you like biking through the streets of Florence? Why not taking a stop in the Accademia Gallery to meet the David by Michelangelo? Our Tour by bike with visit to the Accademia Gallery you can do it!
Furthermore, if you'd like to enjoy a panoramic tour of Florence, visiting some of hidden, lesser-known corners of Florence, with the final stop at the Accademia Gallery, don't miss our comfortable Tour by Minivan to discover Florence and the Accademia Gallery!

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