Events TooMuchFlorence

Meet Plautilla Nelli, the first woman artist of Florence

The Last Supper by Nelli - Details

If you read this blog you probably know that I love art and I have a peculiar interests in women artists, that was emphasized when I first met the AWA Advancing Women Artist Foundation a few years ago: I loved the guide book Art by Women in Florence they wrote. Few days ago these great women presented their last art project: #TheFirstLast of Plautilla Nelli. Let’s discover more about this intriguing woman artist!

Plautilla Nelli, the woman artist of the Renaissance

Plautilla was born in 1523 as Polissena de’ Nelli in Florence, but her family had their roots in Mugello; she entered the Dominican Convent of Santa Caterina da Siena in Piazza San Marco, when she was about 15, just two years after her older sister Sour Petronilla. She is the first known woman painter of Florence and of the Renaissance. She was a nun and a self-taught talented painter, as written by Vasari in his chronicles “The Lives of the Artists”.

Plautilla turned the convent into a proper bottega, teaching to the other nuns to paint, as documented by the payments received for her works. Her artworks were very much appreciated and requested. Some of her most famous artworks are Lamentation with Saints, conserved in San Marco Museum and The Last Supper, now under restoration. The first was the first painting by Nelli restored by AWA Foundation in 2006; since then they restored 20 of her works and a total of 45 artworks by women artists.

The Last Supper by Nelli - Details
The Last Supper by Nelli - Details of food and wine
The Last Supper by Nelli - Rossella Lari

#TheFirstLast, beyond the Supper

The Last Supper is the first known – and probably the only one – Last Supper painted by a woman in art history. It’s a massive work of art that measures 7 meters for 2 – 22 feet wide and 5.6 feet tall; it’s an oil on canvas that Plautilla painted for the dining room of her convent. She portrayed the last dinner of Jesus with the Apostles, depicting a dinner rich in fresh food – fava beans, salad and bread – and red wine.

This large painting was then rolled up in 1808 when Napoleon closed all the convents in Europe; it was stored for some time and then hanged inside the monastery of Santa Maria Novella, its new home. Being rolled-up for several years damaged the painting and caused the loss of paint that hinders its legibility. The restoration job involves several steps, lots of money and about 1750 hours of work of Florentine Conservator Rossella Lari, i.e. over 2 years.

The Last Supper by Nelli - #TheFirstLast
The Last Supper by Nelli - The damaged painting before restoration

Now AWA Foundation needs you and me: they’ve just launched #TheFirstLast crowdfunding campaign to raise $ 65,000 to restore this unique work of art by the first woman artist of Florence. Anyone can contribute starting from just $5; among the rewards for your contribution you can inscribe your name in art history by being included in the Dominican’s archives in Santa Maria Novella – the same archives preserved for centuries the names of important people and artists like Filippo Brunelleschi and Donatello.

Watch this video about the crowdfunding campaign and learn more about Plautilla Neri.

Thanks in advance for your contribution.

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