|A theme itinerary: Michelangelo’s Florence
A walk for two days
This museum takes the name from the adjoining Academy of Belle Arti. The collection was assembled by the end of XVIII century in order to provide the students with masterpieces to copy and study them.
In the gallery you can see several other masterpieces. The first to attract the attention after the David usually are the four “Prigioni” (the Prisoners, whose names are The Bearded Slave, The Young Slave, The Awakening Slave and The Atlas) and the San Matteo.
They are all parts of unfinished projects of Michelangelo: the monumental tomb for the Pope Julius II with the Prisoners and the series of apostles for the basement of the Cathedral’s dome. It impresses how these sculptures are uncompleted: instead of generating sadness for a missed masterpiece, they express an astounding strength just from the contrast between the sculpted part and the rough stone. This effect is called Michelangelo’s “non-finito” (unfinished), and it was intentionally used in some of his works. Just look at the bent figure of the Atlas: how much vivid tension it is spread in this body, like if it is escaping with great struggle from the stone, like taking birth from the chaos, like fighting against the material; or take a look at the dramatic twisting of the San Matteo: its figure seems just moved against the rock in a fight to emerge from the background. Michelangelo worked several times to the San Matteo, but he never sculpted more than the front side, as he was aware of the power of the “non-finito”. This way any single observer can give his personal interpretation to the hidden, un-worked areas of the sculptures, just because the artist did not give his own definition: some could see the human affliction when escaping the anguishes, some the soul getting rid of the body… Michelangelo just perfectly represented what has no name. Moreover it was not casual he did not portray any face: giving no identity to the characters, anyone can identify himself and feel the same emotions.
The last Michelangelo’s sculpture at the Accademia is the Pieta di Palestrina. There are some doubts about the attribution to Michelangelo of this work, because of the lack of documents about it, while for all the rest of his production there is a plenty of papers. Someone made up stories about Michelangelo sculpting this work inside a marble cave in Carrara, to skip time while waiting the stones for his projects to be mined. More probably, he made it in Rome, in the last years of his life, when he could work just for himself, without taking care of having an assignment, and he tried to design his last resting place. As a proof of this theory you can see a dentile of an acanthus leaf in a corner, as you can only find on Roman antique marble blocks, probably recycled by the artist. In addition, the theme of the Pieta is very common in this period of his life: another sculpture like this is kept inside the “Opera del Duomo” Museum, which we are going to visit tomorrow, taking the chance to focus on this theme more in depth.