Accademia Gallery (Galleria dell'Accademia) is one of the most important museums in Florence, mainly because of the famous statue of David, the work of one of the greatest artists in the world history, Michelangelo. It is one of the first operational academies in Europe in the drawing field. The museum also hosts another works of art, including statues, religious paintings and musical instruments.
Cosimo I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, founded the first academy of art from Europe in 1563, under the influence of Giorgio Vasari. Michelangelo Buonarroti was one of the first professors of the academy, which was called the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (or the Florentine Academy of the Art of Design). In 1784 it became part of a new institution, the Accademia di Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts), founded by Peter Leopold, another Grand Duke of Tuscany. He was also the one who founded the Galleria dell'Accademia, a museum located near the academy. The purpose of the museum was to provide the students examples of art works with historical value as teaching material.
The original idea was creating a 'Michelangelo Museum', today the small collection including the unfinished work of the four 'Prisoners', the statue of St. Matthew, and others. The Gallery also houses paintings' collections of artists like Paolo Uccello, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Sandro Botticelli and Andrea del Sarto, such as: 'Rape of Sabines' and a rich collection of Russian icons. Through the many galleries and museums in Florence, Accademia di Belle Arti should not be avoided in any form, followed of course by a visit to the works from Piazza della Signoria.
The most important masterpiece from Accademia Gallery is David, the Statue created by Michelangelo, probably the most famous and valuable statue in the world. The statue with a height of 5 meters and 17 centimeters was commissioned by the Republic of Florence which saw in the biblical hero who defeated Goliath, a symbol of the republic birth. The statue was installed in front of Palazzo Vecchio, but it was moved to the Galleria dell'Accademia in 1873 so as to be protected from any inconveniences and it was replaced with a fake. Another replica can be seen in the center of the plaza, called Piazzale Michelangelo.This statue that has been created by Michelangelo between 1501 and 1504 from a single block of marble was immediately admired for its proportions and details. He chose to portray David as a teenager instead of a child as it is was normal. Michelangelo's statue soon earned him unanimous recognition at the age of 29 years.
Another famous work by Michelangelo which can be found in Accademia Gallery is a group of four unfinished marble statues representing slaves. They were made between 1521 and 1523 as part of a monumental tomb for Pope Julius II, whose dimensions were later reduced. The statues give the feeling that they want to release themselves from the block of marble. In 1585 the statues were placed in Grotta Grande (from the Boboli Gardens), nowadays being replaced by some fakes.
Around David you can find a series of statues of others artists and another room, Salone del Ottocento. The museum has also other artworks, besides statues; on the second floor an impressive collection of paintings with religious themes from 13-16 centuries can be seen. The museum houses a collection of musical instruments, owned by the Conservatory of Music that is located near the gallery and which in the past was also part of the Academy.