8 Places to Find Michelangelo Sculptures in Florence, Italy
Explore the life and art of the “divine artist” by walking in the footsteps of Michelangelo in Florence, Italy
From the magnificent David to his unfinished masterpieces, here is your guide to where to find Michelangelo sculptures in Florence. They are all within walking distance of each other and there’s a map at the end of this post to help you on your way.
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A Short Biography of Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, or simply Michelangelo, was born on 6 March 1475 in the town of Caprese, near Arezzo in Tuscany.
At the tender age of 13, he was apprenticed to Domenico Ghirlandaio, one of the most successful fresco painters in Florence. In 1489, he was sent to Lorenzo de’Medici’s sculpture school in the Medici gardens and later lived in the Medici household.
Lured by prestigious commissions, he spent most of his life in Rome. He served under seven popes, most famously Julius II, with whom Michelangelo had a tempestuous relationship.
And it was in the Eternal City that Michelangelo created many of his masterpieces, including the Last Judgement on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Michelangelo died in Rome in 1564 and was laid to rest in the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence. His elaborate tomb was designed by Giorgio Vasari and its three sculptures represent painting, sculpture, and architecture.
Learn more about Michelangelo
Pages of text have been devoted to understanding the man and his masterpieces. From biographies to page-turning novels, here is my pick of the best books about Michelangelo.
Where to Find the Sculptures by Michelangelo in Florence
1. Santo Spirito Church (Basilica di Santo Spirito)
Following the death of his patron Lorenzo de’Medici, Michelangelo turned his attention to studying anatomy by dissecting dead bodies in the church of Santo Spirito in Florence’s Oltrarno district. To thank the church’s monastic community, he carved this wooden crucifix around 1492.
Those hours chopping up corpses were starting to pay off. This striking naked figure of Christ – highly unusual at that time – demonstrates Michelangelo’s knowledge of the human body.
Find information on visiting Basilica di Santo Spirito here.
2. Bargello Museum
The Bargello Museum is to sculpture what Florence’s Uffizi Gallery is to art. Housing some of the most magnificent sculptures in the world, including works by Michelangelo, it is one of the must-see sights in Florence.
This larger-than-life-sized marble statue of Bacchus was one of Michelangelo’s earliest works of art. Completed around 1496/1497, he sculpted it at the tender age of 21.
Michelangelo’s Roman God of wine is naked and debauched. He holds a goblet of wine in his right hand as a faun eats grapes that escape his grip.
Unsurprisingly, this sculpture of a tipsy Bacchus was rejected by Cardinal Raffaele Riario who had commissioned it. Eventually, it found its way to the garden of Jacopo Galli, a friend of Michelangelo.
Pitti Tondo (1503 – 1504)
This marble sculpture of the Madonna and Child in a tondo (circular form) was a commission from Bartolomeo Pitti as a gift for his son.
It’s a tender scene. Mary gazes wistfully into the distance as a relaxed Jesus leans into her. Although not as prominent, you can just make out John the Baptist in the background.
The identity of Michelangelo’s nude man has been debated. The subject of the unfinished statue was never recorded by the artist, and he has been identified as either Apollo or David.
Look at how the use of contours and twisting allows multiple aspects of the body to be seen from a single angle.
This 1.46 meter-high sculpture was commissioned for the private palace of Baccio Valori, who was appointed governor of Florence in 1530 following the defeat of the resurgent republic by the Medici. After the death of Pope Clement VII, Michelangelo’s Medici patron and protector, the sculptor fled Florence for Rome, leaving the statue unfinished.
David-Apollo ended up in the private collection of Duke Cosimo I, and in 1824 it was moved to the Boboli Gardens.
This marble bust of Brutus demonstrates Michelangelo’s mastery of capturing the finest details of human expression.
Brutus was famously one of the assassins of the dictator Julius Caesar, but Caesar was also his friend and mentor. The nobleman’s internal conflict is captured in this sculpture.
Stand in front of the sculpture. In profile, Brutus looks assured and heroic.
But swivel round to look at his face full-on and he appears downright sinister, filled with disdain and hate.
Head to the Bargello Museum’s website for ticket information and opening hours.
3. Accademia Gallery (Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze)
The Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, known as simply the Accademia, is an essential addition to any Florence itinerary. Although it is world-famous as the home of David, Michelangelo’s other sculptures here are also compelling.
David (1501 – 1504)
As his most famous sculpture, Michelangelo’s buff biblical shepherd barely needs an introduction. Carved from fine Carrara marble around the same time as his Pitti Tondo, David is a symbol of both the Renaissance and the city of Florence.
Standing 14 feet high and weighing in at six tonnes, this mammoth sculpture captures David as he is sussing out his enemy. This is a relaxed yet alert and confident David.
But is it? When you view him face-on, does he look apprehensive to you?
David guarded the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio for 350 years before he was moved to the Accademia.
The Prisoners (1516 – 1534)
Known as The Prisoners or The Slaves, this extraordinary group of Michelangelo sculptures were commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1505 for his monumental tomb. The Slaves are collectively the Young Slave, Bearded Slave, Awakening Slave and Bound Slave.
However, the project was significantly scaled down by the pope and was not completed until 1545 on a much-reduced scale.
The Prisoners give us a precious window into Michelangelo’s creative process and his understanding of the human body. Just look at his chisel marks on these unfinished figures, which look like they are trying to free themselves from the stone.
St. Matthew (1506 – 1507)
Standing 271 cm tall, this unfinished marble sculpture was destined for a choir niche in Florence Cathedral, one of a group of all the Apostles. However, Michelangelo abandoned work on it when he was summoned to Rome.
St. Matthew emerges from the stone, looking more like a relief than a statue. Like The Prisoners, this sculpture gives us a tantalising glimpse into the technique of Michelangelo.
Palestrina Pietà (1555)
This is the third pietà that Michelangelo worked on. His first, and most acclaimed pietà is in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Doubt has been cast on the provenance of this sculpture, with some experts stating the elements of its style are not consistent with the work of Michelangelo. However, the consensus is that the Palestrina Pietà is likely to have been carved by his hand, albeit with help from his students.
Head to the Accademia’s website for ticket information and opening hours.
4. The Medici Chapels (Cappelle Medicee)
In 1519, Michelangelo was commissioned to build burial chapels for the Medici. The Medici Chapels comprise two structures: The New Sacristy (Sagrestia Nuova) and the Chapel of the Princes (Capella dei Principi).
Michelangelo designed the chapels’ sculptures dedicated to members of the Medici family: Night & Day, Dawn & Dusk, Madonna and Child, Lorenzo and Guiliano.
Visit the Medici Chapels website for ticket information and opening hours.
5. Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio was the Town Hall of Renaissance Florence, appropriated by Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519 – 1574) as his lavish palace.
Buy a ticket to visit Cosimo’s lavish royal apartments and make your way to the Hall of Five Hundred (Salone dei Cinquecento) which holds Michelangelo’s sculpture, the Genius of Victory (1532 – 1534). It is thought that this was created for the ill-fated tomb of Pope Julius II.
The Genius of Victory was the last sculpture that Michelangelo’s created in Florence. Once it was finished, he packed his bags for Rome for good.
Visit Palazzo Vecchio’s website for ticket information and opening hours.
6. Duomo Museum (Museo dell’Opera del Duomo)
The tranquil Opera del Duomo Museum is home to one of my favourite Michelangelo sculptures in Florence, the Bandini Pietà.
Bandini Pietà (1547 – 1555)
I defy you not to be moved by this, Michelangelo’s penultimate sculpture.
Michelangelo designed his own tomb with a pietà at its centre. Also called The Deposition or The Lamentation over the Dead Christ, the Bandini Pietà depicts three mourners tending to the body of a crucified Christ: Mary, Mary Magdalen and Nicodemus.
The latter’s face was modelled on that of Michelangelo, an old man at the time and facing up to his own mortality.
Visit the Opera del Duomo Museum’s website for ticket information and opening hours.
7. Piazza della Signoria
If you are not able to visit the Accademia, you can see one or both of the fake Davids in town.
One stands in the statue’s original position, guarding the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio.
8. Piazzale Michelangelo
The second, a bronze copy, is in Piazzale Michelangelo. This vast plaza, high up in the Oltrarno, is one of Florence’s finest viewpoints.
Map of Where to Find Michelangelo Sculptures in Florence
If you find it helpful to map things out, here’s one that I prepared earlier. For an interactive map, simply click here or on the image itself.
Michelangelo Sculptures in Florence at a Glance
Do you fancy a handy checklist of where to find the sculptures of Michelangelo in Florence? If so take a look at this hand-crafted one.
To print or download a pdf of this file, simply click here or on the image itself, no strings attached.