Florence’s Accademia Museum – what is it and who’s in it?

Michelangelo's David: a must-see sight in Florence

Florence’s famous Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (Academy of Arts and Design), commonly referred to as simply the Accademia, is home to one of Italy’s much loved heroes, David.

Carved by Michelangelo after he won a competition for the marble, David stands ponderously just before (or after – depending on who you ask) his battle with Goliath.

There were several proposed positions for Michelangelo’s David statue, but the place finally decided upon in the early 1500s when David was first bought to life by one of Florence’s most beloved and recognised artist, Michelangelo Buonerotti (or, more completely and certainly more impressively, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni).

It was finally decided that David would reside on the steps of Palazzo Vecchio in the Florence piazza of Piazza della Signora. However to protect the statue, it was eventually decided in the 1800s to move the David to the Accademia museum, where a special room was designed to honour one of the world’s most famous artworks.

But the Accademia did not come to be solely for this purpose. In fact, the Accademia museum, originally known as the Accademia e Compagnia delle Arti del Disegno (the Academy and Company or Arts and Design) was established in 1563 by Cosimo I de’ Medici. With the help of his personal architect Vasari (of Vasarian Corridor fame, and many other must-see sights in Florence’s historic city centre), the company of the Accademia was originally established as the first drawing school in Europe and its founders were to be a kind of artist union consisting of the most important artists of their time. They were to oversee artistic creation throughout the Medici-ruled areas.

With famous Italian Renaissance artists such as Bronzino, da Sangallo and Cellini, as well as Michelangelo and Vasari themselves involved, it was a highly prestigious group indeed.

The Accademia changed name in the 1780s when the Florence Grand Duke, Pietro Leopoldo, decreed that various drawing schools should be combined in the newly named Accademia de Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts). It was at this time that the Medici group also had a name-change to the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, which continued to oversee art production.

Many people visit the Accademia museum while in Florence to see the David statue. Being that it is considered one of the best artworks in the world, that is certainly not a bad idea. However, there are many more things to see inside this Florence academy. Other works by Michelangelo are here, as are a bevvy of outstanding Renaissance artworks by noted Renaissance artists including Botticelli, Andrea del Sarto, Uccello and many others.

Aside from the artworks, there is the aptly-paired restoration school and also the Cherubini Conservatory – a conservatory of music.

If you like waiting in long queues (and really, who doesn’t?) you can purchase tickets to the Accademia museum directly from the academy itself. You can also pre-reserve tickets online, although do beware – you still have to line up on the day to collect your pre-reserved tickets for entry into the Accademia museum.

For a skip-the-line entry into the Accademia museum, accompanied by an expert English-speaking guide, we have a one-hour guided tour that not only includes fast entry into the academy, but also covers some in situ history about Michelangelo’s David and the famed Renaissance artist as well.

Artviva offers a small-group Original David Tour with expert tour guide, and also has a guided skip-the-line Academy Tour with your own private tour guide.

There is also a discounted Florence tours package including a 3-hour guided tour of Florence’s city centre, guided skip-the-line Uffizi tour and also a guided tour of the Academy museum, with this excellent value tour package also available as a private tour discounted tour package with your own exclusive guide.

There is also a fantastic private guided tour of Florence focusing on Michelangelo.

And email us regarding our new Vasarian Corridor guided tour on staff@artviva.com.

For more small-group or private guided tour options and things to do in Florence, Tuscany and beyond, see www.italy.artviva.com or email staff@artviva.com.

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