…NOT JUST MICHELANGELO
The museum is situated in Via Ricasoli 60, just past the Academy of Fine Arts.
Pietro Leopoldo, one of the most illuminated of the Lorraine Grand Dukes, commissioned this Gallery in 1784 by decreeing that all the schools of drawing in Florence were to be united into a single Academy (keeping to the same name and Statute conceived by Vasari in 1561) and that it was to contain a gallery of paintings by old masters to help the studies of the young artists. It is still here in the buildings that once belonged to the Hospital of San Matteo and to the nearby convent of San Niccol.. The Grand Duke also decided to include music (the Cherubini Conservatory of today) and restoration (the Opificio delle Pietre Dure) among the arts. This was a real citadel of the arts which occupied, and still occupies, almost the entire block between Piazza San Marco, via Ricasoli, via degli Alfani, piazza Santissima Annunziata e via Battisti. The buildings assumed their present appearance in 1935, when the open loggia onto St. Mark’s Square, was discovered (ascribed to either Brunelleschi or Michelozzo, but really a work by an anonymous architect of the end of the XIV century). Both the Academy Gallery and the future classrooms were designed and restructured in 1781 by Gaspare Maria Paoletti. The first room contains the original plaster model by Giambologna for the marble sculptures of the Rape of the Sabines (the original statue is in the Signoria Square under the Loggia dei Lanzi) and paintings mainly from the early 16th century. Among the several works is the famous Adimari Cassone (around 1450), showing an elegant wedding procession, probably carried out by Masaccio’s brother, Giovanni di Ser Giovanni known as Lo Scheggia, a Madonna and Child, attributed to Botticelli. In the further room the powerful Prisoners (originally for the tomb of Julius II ) and St. Matthew (1505) by Michelangelo act as a guard of honour to Michelangelo ‘s David (1501-4), in the beautifully lit Tribune – designed specifically by architect De Fabris- situated at the far end of this spectacular gallery. Substituted by a copy in Piazza della Signoria in 1873, the sculpture represents a heroic and athletic figure, the symbol of the freedom of the Florentine Republic. Close to the Prisoners there is a bronze bust of Michelangelo by his collaborator and friend Daniele da Volterra, known as “Il Braghettone” (the painter of underwear) because he was later ordered to cover Michelangelo’s nude figures in the Last Judgment with drapery. The so-called Palestrina Piet., which some critics believe is not by Michelangelo but by a follower of the artist, is placed further forward to the right. A large collection of plaster casts by 19th century Tuscan artists some of them active as masters in the colse Accademy of Fine arts is rooms containing 13th and 14th century works of art, including many paintings by pupils of Giotto: Mary Magdalen by an unknown master of the end of the 13th century, Stories of St. Francis and Christ by Taddeo Gaddi. Among the remarcable pieces of the museum is also a Piet. by Giovanni da Milano (1365), and a fine collection of Byzantine and Florentine painters of the same period that can be found at the upper floor. In the Gallery can be seen also a section dedicated to the Musical Instruments collected by the Medici and Lorraine Grandukes of the Luigi Cherubini Conservatory. Close to the Accademia and the Cherubiny Conservatory is the Museum of Semi-precious Stones and Mosaics, together with the Opificio, which was originally set up by Ferdinando I dei Medici (1588) to create the magnificent decorations for the Chapel of the Princes in San Lorenzo. This institution is quite unique in the world and provides materials and highly specialized labour for original works and restoration in all parts of the globe. The museum contains furniture, paintings, statues, cameos, caskets and various kinds of inlaid work carried out in marble and semiprecious stones from all over the world.
Ruggero Vannini – Chef Concierge Hotel Savoy – FLORENCE