In the corridor at the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Florence, leading to the hall that holds Michelangelo’s most recognized sculpture, David, are four other pieces by Michelangelo, commonly referred to as the “Prisoners,” which date between 1525–1530.
The Prisoners (or sometimes “Slaves”) are made of a single block of marble each and are considered to be unfinished. Each of the four is a male figure that demonstrates a sculpting practice of Michelangelo’s and indicates the artist’s belief that the art is already in the material ready for an artist to release it.
The Atlas Slave is almost 9 feet tall. The male nude partly carved in the marble seems to carry an immense weight on his shoulders, like the ancient Titan Atlas.
The Bearded Slave
This Prisoner seems to be caught mid-motion, which gives its unfinished state all the more energy. Its name comes from the character’s curly beard, one of the two soft textures this sculpture includes, together with the fabric wrapped around its legs.
The Young Slave
With one arm behind his back, hinting at a chain that was never carved out of the marble, the figure’s other arm seems to be protecting its face from an unknown attack, adding emotion to the already grim expression of his face.
The Awakening Slave
Of the four, this figure is the roughest, the post seems to imply that the nude was cocooned in marble and is frozen during the process of reviving out of it.