The Galleria dell'Accademia, located on the Via Ricasoli, has become one of the most visited museums in Florence, almost all come to see what is arguably the most famous statue in the world, Michelangelo’s David, but the gallery also includes a number of other sculptures by Michelangelo which he never managed to finish, plus many additional works of art ranging from the 13th to 16th centuries.
The Galleria dell’Accademia was created in 1784 to house the collection of the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo. And was the gallery for the adjoining academy of fine arts, the Accademia di Belle Arti, which, was established as the first European school of drawing.
David once stood in the Palazzo della Signoria (where a copy now stands) but to protect it from the elements it was moved to the Galleria dell'Accademia after undergoing a process of cleaning and restoration. The sheer size of the statue, that was carved from a block of marble almost 5 meters (16 feet) high is often a surprise to those who visit it for the first time.
Some question the physical proportions of David such as the oversized head and hands, but general consensus is that this was a deliberate act due to the fact that the statue was to be originally located at roof level so looking at David from below would make the statue appear to be perfectly proportioned.
The gallery includes a large array of paintings from many of the Italian masters, and there is a room dedicated to some very early paintings from the Tuscany region. One room has a small display of musical instruments that were once in the private collections of the Tuscan Grand Dukes and the Medici family. These include a violin and a viola from the renowned manufacturer, Stradivarius.
The statue of David is located on the ground floor in a purpose built wing of the building designed by architect Emilio de Fabris. Michelangelo was commissioned in 1505 by Pope Julius II. to design a tomb. The original plan was to create about forty statues with sixteen of them representing slaves or prisoners, but with Michelangelo’s attention being diverted elseware, only six were started and of these only two completed. These two can now be seen in the Louvre museum in Paris with the remainder on display here at the Galleria dell'Accademia. Also to be found on this floor is Michelangelo’s portrayal of St. Matthew.