Halls of the
Discover the Halls of the Accademia Gallery
What can you even see in the Accademia Gallery? The Accademia Gallery ( Galleria dell’Accademia ) museum in Florence has seven different halls, each telling a different story about art history. Specifically, these halls tell the story of Florence’s history through art. Each hall houses a variety of paintings and sculptures. One hall even displays musical instruments from the days of old.
An eighth hall also houses special events and exhibits that change regularly. Keep an eye on website of the Accademia Gallery to see what special exhibition will display when you visit the museum. Read on to take a mini-tour of each of the main halls of the Accademia Gallery and get acquainted with the types of artwork you will have the opportunity to see.
Hall of the Colossus
Immediately after leaving the ticket counter, you will enter the Hall of the Colossus. As soon as you enter the hall, you will be greeted by a large sculpture. This is the model for the Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna. This model is from the 16th century. The Gallery is quite lucky to have this rare piece of unfired clay. It is a 1:1 scale made by Giambologna as a practice for the final version: an identical marble statue made in 1582, which is now on display in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria.
Also in this hall, lining the walls, are paintings from the Renaissance, including works by Perugino, Filippino Lippi, Pontormo, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Paolo Uccello, Botticelli, and Bronzino. Enjoy the six altarpieces from the 15th century.
Hall of the Prisoners
To the left of the Hall of the Colossus is the Hall of the Prisoners. The hall is sometimes translated into English as the “hall of the slaves.” It takes its name from the four unfinished sculptures that line the hall. These sculptures are male bodies, called the four “slaves” or “prisoners,” and were made of marble. They were originally meant for the tomb of Julius II and were made by Michelangelo Buonarroti – yes, that Michelangelo.
Look behind the “prisoners” by Michelangelo, and you will see a variety of botanical paintings lining the walls. Many of these paintings are works by Alessandro Allori. Also in this hall are 3 other grand sculptures by Michelangelo: his Palestrina Pietà and Saint Matthew. Then, at the very end of this hall, prominently displayed for all to view in all its grandeur, is the David.
At the very end of the Hall of Prisoners are tall, circular archways and rounded ceilings giving additional sophistication and majesty to an area known as the Tribune. The Tribune has the honor of housing the most famous work of art in the Accademia – perhaps even the most famous in all of Florence. The David by Michelangelo was moved from its original home outside the now-called Palazzo Vecchio to the museum’s Tribune in 1873. He stands proudly in the center of a T-intersection between two halls. The tall ceiling and circular walls allow viewers to easily view the entirety of the David from any corner of the Tribune or the Hall of the Prisoners.
You can make a loop around the statue to view it from every angle. Even benches allow you to stop, sit, and take it all in. There are also two wings to the sides of the Tribune, a small one to the right and a longer one to the left with branches leading off to other halls. These wings house additional painted works of art by various esteemed artists, including Bronzino, Cecchino Salviati, and Allori.
At the far end of the left wing of the Tribune lies the Gipsoteca Bartolini. This hall is also known as the Plaster Cast Gallery. It is aptly called that because of the plaster casts and models on display. It gets the name “Gipsoetca Bartolini” because these casts and models were made by Lorenzo Bartolini and his followers, including student Luigi Pampaloni. These delightful statues come from the 19th century.
Three small side chambers are from another wall of the left wing of the Tribune. In these chambers, you can find paintings from Florence’s Gothic period.
- The first room, called Pacino’s Room, displays the oldest works of art in the Accademia. There are numerous examples of Gothic paintings, and many are painted on wood. These paintings were used to decorate churches; for this reason, you can expect to see many painted crucifixes, altarpieces, and images of the Virgin Mary and an unnamed child, generally assumed to be the baby Jesus. The most notable work of art in this room is also the largest: the Tree of Life by Pacino di Bonaguida. Within the tree painting is smaller pictures depicting the Garden of Eden, the life of Christ, and images of some saints and important biblical figures.
- The second room, called Giotto and Giotteschi’s Room, houses the artwork of Giotto and his students. To be more accurate: there is actually only one work by Giotto himself in this room, and it is merely a fragment of a fresco now called Shepherd’s Head. The rest of the artwork in this room was created by Giotto’s students and those who followed his school of thought. The goal of the Giotto school was to bring nature back into art. Many of these small gilded artworks depict scenes from the Bible, biblical figures, or important saints.
- The third and final room, called Orcagna’s Room, contains the artwork of four brothers: Andrea (nicknamed “Orcagna,” meaning “archangel”), Nardo, Matteo, and Jacopo di Cione. These works of art are also golden and religious in nature as they were pretty popular during Florence’s Gothic period. Many of the brothers’ creations are altarpieces, distinctively named and identified according to the number of painted panels the altarpiece has. “Diptychs” have two-panel pieces, “triptychs” have three panels, and “polyptychs” have four or more panels). Newly displayed in the hall is an exceptional work by Jacopo di Cione with the assistance of two other artists, Niccolo di Tommaso and Simone di Lapo. Coronation of the Virgin, also called the “Altarpiece of the Mint” because the magistrates of the Mint commissioned it, is a panel depicting the coronation of Christ’s mother, along with figures of patron saints adored by the people of Florence.
Florence between 1370 and 1430
You will find a discreet set of stairs past the gift shop and before the exit. Up above the rest of the museum is yet another museum hall. The works of art, as you may have already suspected based on the hall’s name, all originate from 1370 to 1430, which correlates with the late Gothic period in Florence. Like the Florentine Gothic hall, this floor houses religious depictions almost exclusively. There is an art by Don Silvestro Gherarducci, Giovanni del Biondo, Mariotto di Nardo, Spinello Aretino, Lorenzo Monaco, and more works by Jacopo di Cione.
The hall displays yet more panels, altarpieces, and some beautiful pieces of art made on fabric instead of the common wood. Even further into the hall and up a half-staircase is a subset of the exhibit called the Hall of the International Gothic. This space house works by international artists and Florentine artists who spent considerable time abroad.
Museum of Musical Instruments
This particular hall is separated from the rest, both physically and in terms of content. The Museum of Musical Instruments is a hidden gem down a hallway to the right of the Hall of the Colossus and entryway. For additional help finding this hall, know that if you can still see the David, you are not going in the right direction to find this exhibit. The exhibit is a collection of music-related artifacts from the conservatory of Florentine Luigi Cherubini.
The hall holds approximately 50 instruments that belonged to the grand dukes of Tuscany, from the families of Medici and Lorraine. Most notably, you can find a tenor viola and cello (also called a violoncello) by Antonio Stradivari – yes, these are examples of highly sought-after Stradivarius instruments. These instruments were used in the quintet formed in 1690 for Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici.
Additionally, you can see an oval spinet – which is a type of harpsichord – made by Bartolomeo Cristofori. This man later invented the pianoforte (now typically referred to as a “piano” in English). There is also a 1650 cello (violoncello) by Niccolò Amati and a marble Psaltery (a string instrument from the time period) made of various types of marble. Behind the historical musical instruments are beautiful paintings. Anton Domenico Gabbiani and Bartolomeo Bimbi painted works of art depicting instruments and the social culture of playing music during the Medici dynasty. For a wholly sensory experience, you can also listen to media clips of music that was standard repertoire at the time.