Founded in 1784 upon Grand Duke Leopoldo of Lorena’s decree, La Galleria dell’Accademia was created to host a collection of antique and modern paintings and sculptures so the students of the nearby Accademia di Belle Arti could pursue their studies in the light of these great masterworks. The Accademia Gallery is situated in parts of the former convent San Niccolò in Cafaggio and the hospice of San Matteo.
I remember the first time I visited the Accademia. I was 9 years old and traveling through Florence with my family. My parents focus of our trip was history, art, and culture. I was beyond intrigued by the gallery itself, a former convent and hospice. But more than anything I was enraptured with the various sculptures of Michelangelo. Seeing the David and the Hall of The Prisoners in person provided a whole new perspective on art and its endurance through time.
20 years later, I can say that seeing these works put me on a path of lifelong study of fine art and history. Of everything I saw on that visit, the pieces that struck the deepest chord were the four large sculptures in the Hall of Prisoners. These sculptures were intended for the pillars on the lower level of the tomb of Pope Julius II della Rovere, in the grand Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome. However, unlike other sculptures in the collection, these are incomplete. The design for the tomb was scaled down twice, eventually removing the slaves from the design.