Past Exhibitions at the Accademia Gallery


Textiles and Wealth in 14th-Century Florence. Wool, Silk, Painting

December 5, 2017 – April 15, 2018 ** extended **

Giovanni Baronzio, The Baptism of Christ,
1330-1335, tempera on wood panel, Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art

Conceived and curated by the museum director Cecilie Hollberg, this exhibition shows the importance of textiles as an art form in Florence in the 1300s, both from an economic and an artistic perspective.

It was in the 1300s that – fashion – as a new phenomenon linked to luxury began to develop. Despite the very high costs of raw materials and dyes, the quality of Florentine goods made in wool, and later in silk, reached such a level of excellence that it spread across all of Europe, despite wars, frequent epidemics, financial crises and social conflicts. Especially after the Black Death, fashion that was rich in opulence and luxury spread quickly across Europe, a sign of the desire and celebration of life.

Luxurious fabrics were sought after from the Middle East to Asia, from Spain to the court of the Holy Roman Empire of Prague, from Sicily to the Baltic Sea. In short, it was a phenomenon of extraordinary geographic spread and unparalleled prestige in addition to being an enormous source of wealth.

The processing of textiles soon became the basis of the enormous wealth of Florence. The large guild corporations in the textile sector, the Wool Guild and the Silk Guild, known as the Arte di Calimala and Arte di Por Santa Maria in Italian, become the real possessors of political power and, at the same time, extraordinary patrons of art. They were able to afford to make important investments not only in the textile sector but also in luxury goods and in architecture and artistic production. Their power in 14th century Florence is very evident in history and today’s Florence.

The exhibition focuses on textiles born during this period of wealth and their “photograph” in paintings of the time. Artisans and painters found plentiful inspiration in the fabrics and fashion of that era that they replicated the luxurious weaves of the fabrics on painted panels and frescoes throughout the city, as illustrated in the woven and painted works in the exhibition.

Important pieces to look for:
– the Baptism of Christ by Giovanni Baronzio, on loan from the National Gallery in Washingtion, DC
– a fragment of fabric with phoenixes and wine leaves from the Museum of Textiles in Prato
– the Coronation of the Virgin and Four Angels by Gherardo di Jacopo, known as Starnina, from the Galleria Nazionale di Parma
– a 13th century Crucifix from the Accademia Gallery itself restored for the exhibition.

During the exhibition, the museum is offering special workshops for families every Saturday at 9am and 11am. The workshop and guided visit is an introduction to the textiles followed by a treasure hunt through the exhibition to look for the textiles that were just introduced. The workshop is for children 6-10 years old. To book a spot for the free workshops (and book museum tickets), email firenzemusei@operalaboratori.com or by calling 055-294-883.

Notice the extraordinary brocaded figures of bears, dogs and birds. Fabric remnant of Italian origin, today held at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg.


Carlo Portelli, An Eccentric Painter between Rosso Fiorentino and Vasari

December 22, 2015 – June 30, 2016 ** extended **

Fig. 2

Carlo Portelli, Allegory of the Immaculate Conception, signed and dated 1566, wood panel – Florence, Galleria dell’Accademia

This exhibition is devoted to Carlo Portelli, a Florentine painter who reveals his highly advanced mastery of the “modern manner” at the height of the 16th century. The many paintings found around the David in the Accademia’s Tribuna in this style include a monumental altarpiece of the Immaculate Conception by Carlo Portelli dated 1566 from the church of Ognissant, considered by many as his masterpiece.

Yet this painter’s work has never received the critical acclaim it deserves, despite being the recipient of important commissions in his own day and one of the artists most active in the large decorative schemes commissioned by the House of Medici.

His paintings are often crowded with figures, as we can see in his Immaculate Conception in the Accademia itself and, to an even greater extent, in his tortured Martyrdom of St. Romulus in Fiesole. The selection of works by the artist will reveal his tireless search for a refined, complex elegance. One of his latest works in Florence can also be admired at Palazzo Vecchio, within the Prince’s Study just off the Salone dei Cinquecento.

The exhibition, with about fifty paintings, drawings and documents, sets out not only to enhance the Galleria dell’Accademia’s own altarpiece but to encourage the crowds that daily visit the gallery to discover an artist hitherto known only to the experts, when in fact he deserves far wider appreciation for his originality, his imagination and his ability to translate inventive concepts into painting in the manner of Vasari.

Carlo Portelli, Charity, 1550-1560, wood panel – Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado.


The Arnina by Lorenzo Bartolini

November 18 – February 8, 2015

For the first time ever, the original marble Arnina by Lorenzo Bartolini is on display at the Accademia right alongside the gesso of the statue that is part of the museum gesso collection.


The small but precious exhibition will allow visitors to learn more about the work by local Prato sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini. The Ninfa Arnina’s location had been lost through time and was discovered by English researcher John Kenworthy-Browne in 2013 in a private English collection. So for the first time ever, the original is on display to the public right alongside the gesso owned by the Accademia. Both the statue and gesso carry the inscription of the statue dedicated to Alessandro degli Alessandri, president of the Academy of Arts. In 1825, the sculptor was “courting” in an attempt to be named Chair of the Department of Sculpture within the Academy, at the time vacant. While he did not receive the nomination, in 1830 he did become professor of sculpture at the Academy. This and more details about his work and life are present at the exhibit within the Accademia.

Franciscan Art: Masterpieces of Art and Asian lands from the 13th to the 15th centuries

March 30 – October 11, 2015 ** extended to November 11 **

San Francesco riceve le stimmate

The Accademia’s first exhibition starts in the medieval era, exploring the origin of one of the greatest religious and cultural phenomena in Western and world history:  the Franciscan movement. The movement made an incredible contribution not just to religion but to art as well, as it spread like wildfire to the East as far afield as China itself, and Franciscan friars commissioned works for their  churches and convents.