Hall of the Colossus
The Galleria welcomes the visitor in the Hall of the Colossus, recently restyled in December 2013. The room acquired its name during the nineteenth century when it housed the plaster cast model of an ancient statue, one of the Dioscuri of Montecavallo (Castor and Pollux), no longer displayed in the Gallery. It now hosts in the center the plaster model for the stunning marble sculpture of Giambologna’s “Rape of the Sabines” (from around 1580). Giambologna prepared the model to express virtuosity, creating for the first time a tightly-knit group of three figures carved just from one large block of marble which offers multiple viewpoints to the observer. The original marble sculpture, completed in 1582, can be now admired under the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria.
On the same wall as the entrance
Giambologna’s plaster is surrounded by an extremely valuable collection of artworks on religious subjects from the XV century to the early XVI century. Your glance will be hit by the large number of panel paintings by Paolo Uccello, Perugino, Filippino Lippi, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Botticelli. You might feel overwhelmed at first sight but if you take a seat around Giambologna’s plaster, you may comfortably enjoy this rich Renaissance collection and recognize two of the most important works on the wall from which you entered the Accademia.
The first one is central stage, the rectangular front panel of a chest (called Cassone Adimari). It is the front panel of a wedding chest belonging to the Adimari family, depicting a typical Florentine Renaissance wedding feast and portraying medieval streets, monuments (the Baptistery is on the left) and precious brocade costumes witnessing the customs and wealth of the noble families in the 1450s.
The second is to the left of the chest, the small panel attributed to Botticelli and called The Madonna of the Sea. It owes its name to the seascape you can dimly see in the background and its charm is in its gold details and symbols defining the two characters. The pomegranate held by baby Jesus referred to Christ passion and the star “Stella Maris”, glittering on Mary’s dark blue robe. The name “Maria” was considered in the Middle Ages to be connected to the sea (word mare), as in the term Stella Maris (star of the sea) according to antic transcriptions of the Jewish name “Myriam” (Mary).
The left wing of the Hall of the Colossus exhibits today six examples of XV century altarpieces, exposed in chronological order to show the developments of the Florentine school. Starting with the square panel by Andrea di Giusto (1437), the collection is crowned by the maturity of the great Domenico Ghirlandaio’s artwork at the end of the series.
Centrally located is the large Trinity by Alesso Baldovinetti (1470), formerly painted for Santa Trinita Church in Florence. The mystery of the Trinity (God Father, Christ and Holy Spirit together) opens up behind a refined drapery ornamented by pearls, supported by angels. Christ on the cross is sustained by God Father and between the two heads a white dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit. A triumph of flamboyant angels (cherubs) is surrounding the three figures in an almond shaped frame. Below the cross note the skull, which is usually a religious symbol of human redemption. Through the sacrifice of Christ, the blood gets to Adams skull, which embodies the chance for all his descendants to be redeemed from original sin.
To the right side of the Trinity, you find Botticelli’s famous Trebbio Altarpiece representing a Holy Conversation. Virgin Mary and child are ideally portrayed in a monumental space surrounded by six saints from different periods. The panel arrives from the Medici Villa of Trebbio, most likely commissioned by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco Medici. The Medici patronage is clearly confirmed by the presence of the Saint protectors of the rich family, S. Cosmas and S. Damian, dressed up in long, elegant purple robes.
At the very end of this left wall, Domenico Ghirlandaio’s solemn composition depicting St. Stephen between St. James and St. Peter (1493). The touch of the great Maestro is conspicuous in the majesty of the three sculptural figures which strikingly emerge from the monumental niches painted in the background. Ghirlandaio welcomed the young Michelangelo at his workshop for a few months when he was only about 14 years old. The relationship between the two remained fundamental for Michelangelo throughout his career, both for panel paintings and frescoes, especially during the years that he worked on the Sistine Chapel (1504-08).
Main section on Right Wall
The brand new setting of the room allows the visitor to enjoy three large altarpieces sitting comfortably around Giambologna’s plaster cast model. Since December 2013, the right side of the room hosts Perugino’s grandiose panel depicting the Assumption of the Virgin (1500) surrounded by Raffaellino del Garbo’s Resurrection and Filippino Lippi’s Deposition (1504-08).
The largest panel in the middle is one of the most outstanding artworks by Pietro Perugino which was commissioned by the monks of the Abbey in Vallombrosa in 1500 for the high altar of the church. On the lowest level, the panel is clearly signed “PETRVS PERVGINVS PINXIT A.D. MCCCCC”. The main subject is the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, surrounded by a triumph of singing and playing angels, featuring various musical instruments (harp, violin, guitars) and soft colorful draperies. Down below the main scene, Perugino painted four saints connected to the devotion of the Camaldolese monks. Among them, note on the extreme right the sophisticated Saint Michael the Archangel, dressed up in a rich, glittering armor. If you look at the panel carefully from below, you will even recognize the borders of the long wooden beams used to set up the large wooden panel. The painting was inserted into an elaborate frame completed with a predella and two portraits of Vallombrosa monks, finally recomposed in December 2013.
To the left to the Assumption, you will be attracted by the softness of the pink ribbons of Filippino’s Deposition. The panel formerly exposed in the Church of the Santissima Annunziata in Florence was begun in 1504 by Filippino Lippi and, after his death, it was completed by Perugino, who was responsible for the entire lower part of the painting until 1507. The two levels are stylistically very different and thus create a separation. The upper part features Filippino’s typical search for motion and movement, a large number of characters moving around the cross in precarious equilibrium and unmistakable fluttering ribbons.