The Academy in Florence

By Sarah Titus

When traveling to Firenze, known by English speakers as Florence, art enthusiasts make a point to pay a visit to the Galleria dell’Accademia. After braving the crowd and waiting in the line that wraps around the Accademia, you will eventually enter inside a museum that houses the original works of Michelangelo.

Once stepping foot inside the great doors of this museum, those two hours waiting out on the streets of Florence will seem like a distant memory. The Accademia is home to one of history’s most magnificent sculptures, the David. David is a statue made out of marble that stands at an impressive 14 feet in height. This sculpture, completed at around the year 1504, is one of the many masterpieces of the Renaissance period. It took Michelangelo over two years to create this work.

Photo by Sarah Titus

The David was commissioned by the government of the city of Florence in 1501. The statue was created to depict David from the Bible, well known for the story of his confrontation with Goliath in Samuel I. When facing Goliath in this battle, David was armed with only a rock, his armor, shield, and his sling. However, his faith in God allowed him to be victorious in this battle.

Inga Baškevičiūtė, a Lithuanian student studying for her Master’s degree in art history at the University of Urbino, explained how the large hands of David, seemingly disproportionate to the rest of his figure, could be Michelangelo’s interpretation of the hands of God serving to protect the young man during this intense battle.

Many artists from Florence during the Renaissance had created works of art with David as the center of attention. However, Michelangelo decided to do what had never been done before and create an art piece that focused on David before his battle against Goliath. Michelangelo demonstrated through his sculpture the ideals of the classical body including contraposto. This is demonstrated through the figure’s relaxed pose where the weight is placed on one leg while the other leg is bent. Because David is about three times the size of the human body, it is possible that he represents the divine.

Along with serving as home to the David, the Accademia also houses the Prisoners or Slaves. These are a group of unfinished figures designed for the tomb of Pope Julius II in St. Peter’s in Rome. The tomb was never created, but the sculptures remained. It is evident that the figures seem to be trying to escape the marble they are encased in, their “stone prison.”

These works are considered some of the greatest unfinished masterpieces and reveal Michelangelo’s approach and concept of carving marble. Michelangelo believed that the sculptor was a tool of God, not creating but revealing the powerful figures already contained in the marble. The master mostly worked using the free hand technique, beginning from the front of the marble and working back. These works are referred to as “non finito,” meaning incomplete. However, it is now claimed that he deliberately left them unfinished to represent the eternal struggle of human beings to free themselves from their material trappings. (Inga Baškevičiūtė)

Not far from the Accademia, one also has the opportunity to visit a church known as San Miniato al Monte. This church is described as one of the finest Romanesque structures in Tuscany and one of the most scenic churches in Italy. I definitely stand by this, as the view from the church looking out over the city of Florence was simply spectacular. Although the patterned pavement dates from 1207, little has changed since the church was first built. It is thought that the marble facade was probably begun around 1090, although the upper parts date from the seventh century or later. The church was financed by the cloth merchants guild, and their symbol of the eagle crowns the facade. This church is a must-see for those interested in the old style of architecture prominent throughout the city.

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Photo by Sarah Titus

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