This museum owes its fame to the extraordinary collection of works by Michelangelo. Besides a collection of XIII-XVI century Florentine painting, there is also a collection of plaster casts and another of Russian icons. The gallery was established in 1784 by Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo, who wanted to offer the students at the adjoining Accademia delle Belle Arti fine art works to use as examples. As a result, only works from the Florentine school of painting were chosen, in that they were the only ones considered capable of communicating art.
In 1841, the works then present in the museum were put into chronological order and in 1873 there arrived the most-widely viewed work in the gallery - Michelangelo's David.
Michelangelo started work on this statue in 1502, when he was twenty-six, and finished it two years later in 1504. He created it from an enormous block of marble which had already been roughly-hewn by two other sculptors, who abandoned it because they considered the marble unsuitable for sculpture. It was produced on commission, the request being for a work of religious significance to go in the cathedral. But the political events of the period led to its being placed in front of Palazzo Vecchio, where it remained until it was moved to the Accademia for obvious reasons of conservation.
During the Second World War it was not moved, as many other art works were, but remained in the Accademia, protected by an encircling shield in cement and brick.