In the nineteenth century, this hall ( Hall of the prisoners ) displayed ancient paintings from various collections, and later Michelangelo’s unfinished statues were exhibited here, forming a unified itinerary that culminated in Michelangelo’s David in the centre of the Tribune.

This hall gets its name from the four large sculptures of male nudists called Slaves, Prisoners, or Captives. They were begun by Michelangelo as part of his grandiose project for the tomb of Pope Julius II della Rovere.

It was intended to be the most magnificent tomb of Christian times, containing more than 40 figures, and was commissioned in 1505, before the Sistine Chapel (1508). It is believed that the four Prisoners are carved for the pillars below the tomb, which will be on display in the grand Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome.

During his months spent in the Carrara quarries, Michelangelo carefully selected the brightest marble, marking each block with three circles. The pope ordered him to postpone the tomb project in 1506 due to a lack of funds.

Below is a picture of Michelangelo’s reconstruction of the Julius II Tomb (1st project) from 1505.


Hall of the Prisoners
Hall of the Prisoners
Hall of the Prisoners
Hall of the prisoners

Reconstruction of the project by Michelangelo for the Julius II Tomb dated 1505 (1st project). Inspired reconstruction by F. Russoli, 1952

Later, after the pope’s death in 1513, in 1521, and finally in 1534, when the Prisoners were no longer part of the project, the original design was scaled down to a more modest proportion.

Michelangelo’s nephew Leonardo Buonarroti donated the Prisoners and the Victory housed in Palazzo Vecchio today to Duke Cosimo I Medici after the artist’s death.

Prisoners were kept in the Grotto until 1908 and then transferred to the Accademia Gallery

Who are the prisoners At the Accademia Gallery?

Florence’s Accademia Gallery has a captivating corridor leading to the renowned masterpiece, David, crafted by the talented Michelangelo. Along this corridor, proudly positioned, you will discover four majestic sculptures created by the same skilled artist. These extraordinary works, known as the “Prisoners” or “Slaves,” portray four magnificent male figures meticulously carved within blocks of marble. It is worth noting that these statues are stunning examples of Michelangelo’s unfinished masterpieces.

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