Plautilla Nelli: #TheFirstLast

Detail from Last Supper by Plautilla Nelli
Detail from the “Last Supper” by Plautilla Nelli

Female Artist, from the 1500’s…

Not ringing any bells?

At one time, she was a household name in Florence, a powerhouse of energy and passion, and one of the principle breadwinners for her convent.

Still nothing?

This is what the Florence-based non-profit “Advancing Women Artists Foundation” (AWA) want you to help them change. The restoration of Plautilla Nelli’s Last Supper (from the 1570’s), one of the most important paintings in the history of art by a woman, is how they plan on giving this “invisible” woman and you a voice in history.  And you won’t even need to come to Italy to do it.

Give Nelli a Voice in History

Saving Suor Plautilla Nelli

Never heard of her, right? Her name is a mouthful to be sure: Plautilla Nelli.

And so is her historic legacy as a 16th century painter and the first known female artist from Florence!

We are talking about a nun who during her lifetime established an artistic workshop in her convent and a production line operation creating holy image paintings that hung in (almost) every household. I say almost, because some were just a bit too large to fit inside a house: for example, the 7 meter long, 2 meter high Last Supper which is under restoration at this very moment by AWA.

The first, and possibly only, representation of a Last Supper by a female hand in the 16th century. With a length of 21 feet, it is also the largest painting ever authored by an early woman artist.

21 feet long, the Last Supper by Plautilla Nelli in Florence Tuscany
21 feet long, Nelli’s “The Last Supper”

Operation name: #TheFirstLast

This is where you come into play! No matter how far away you may be from the city of Florence, you are all encouraged to contribute to the restoration and unveiling of Nelli’s Last Supper through a crowdfunding initiative on IndieGoGo which is gathering funds up until April 16th, 2017.  The funds will be used to finish the restoration!

Saving paintings like these from certain destruction and building on their historic legacy are the AWA foundation’s way of giving women a public identity and rescuing them from anonymity. Linda Falcone, the Italian based director of AWA, acknowledged that though this might be seen as an unorthodox approach, it was an inevitable next step to their mission as a non-profit agency: public participation.

People, lots of people, are always asking how they can help, how they can become involved in saving these paintings and exposing hidden treasures. This is one way. – Linda Falcone

Plautilla Nelli: TheFirstLast in Florence Tuscany

Mass Participation & “Sharing”

The mission of AWA is not just to save artwork and to promote women artists, but also to give the public the possibility to participate in these types of projects.  Everyone can be part of creating a new identity for women by restoring these paintings and maybe even, rewriting art history where women artists have long been invisible.

For the first time ever, they are using an online crowdfunding event to give the public a chance to participate and be heard. Linda emphasized that the IndieGoGo platform offers a secure way to contribute any amount, starting with just $5 (wait, that’s not all) and there are special “perks” for every contribution.


Linda also reminded me you can always give by sharing.  Share the crowdfunding link above with others so that Nelli’s voice can be heard (and her work’s incredible colors be seen), from the Arno River in Florence to the Amazon in Brazil, the Mississippi River in the United States, the Congo in Africa and Yangtze in China as people all over the world discover this Renaissance-era woman painter. She encourages everyone to bring about a change and give women a voice in history, and art history in particular.

Essentially, this is an opportunity to rewrite the history books! And in so many ways. With the untiring efforts of Jane Fortune, founder of  the Advancing Women Artists Foundation, the members of the AWA foundation, communications support of local Flod agency and the international community, an extremely talented early Renaissance female painter is about to make her “modern day” debut in a very big way.

Give Nelli a Voice in History, Contribute Here

Before/after restoration detail for Plautilla Nelli
Before/After restoration detail in a part of Nelli’s Last Supper currently under restoration

Nelli at the Uffizi

Suor Platilla Nelli will also be rediscovered this year through a very special exhibition about to open on March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day running through June 4: “Plautilla Nelli: Convent Art and Devotion in the Footsteps of Savonarola”. So if you’re going to be in Florence this spring and are curious to learn more about Florence’s first-known female Renaissance artist, make sure to stop to visit this exhibition! We recommend you book your Uffizi tickets ahead of time too.