Plautilla Nelli: The last supper

One of my devoted readers writes to tell me a new version of The Last Supper by the nun Plautilla Nelli (1524–1588) of Florence has been uploaded to Commons. The painting has been newly restored.

Here is some of the detail from the painting. In the upper left corner is the artist’s signature.  I can make out something like

S · PLAVTIl · LA · ORA · TE · PRO · PICTORA

Suor Plautilla · Orate Pro Pictora (Pray for the Paintress)

I have made the detail lighter so it is easier to read, also added some details of table and feet.




The focal point of the painting seems to be the tension between the two figures in red, the lover and the betrayer: John, the disciple Jesus loved, leaning against him, and Judas, bread in one hand and money bag in the other.  Peter looks on saying “Am I the one who will betray you?”, while Jesus says. “it is the one I dip my bread with” and passes the bread off to Judas, who already has the price of the betrayal, 30 pieces of silver, in the money bag.

The original pre-restoration is here:

Further detail via Twitter:

“After being hidden from public view for centuries, one of the largest works of art by a female artist (ever) has been restored. It is by Plautilla Nelli (1524-1588) and is the only known Last Supper by a female artist in the modern age.”

“Finally visible, in the museums’ ‘old Refectory’

“Nelli was a self-taught convent painter, who established an all-woman workshop within the walls of her convent, Santa Caterina di Cafaggio, Florence.

“The early art historian Giorgio Vasari, wrote cuttingly that “she would have done wonderful things if she had only studied as men do.”

To that, I say… bore off Vasari!”

Heh. Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574).  “Bore off”, indeed.

The painting will be displayed at Santa Maria Novella, Florence.

But as often happens on twitter, when a few specialists get together, the result is often unexpected new information.

In this case we find out about

Mechteld van Lichtenberg toe Boecop (ca. 1520 – 1598). A female artist and member of the local nobility. She was born in Utrecht and moved to Kampen, both in the Netherlands. She painted two versions of the Last Supper.

This one is actually on Commons.  A shame it isn’t on her article.  At least there is an article. It would seem the Art + Feminism people have been busy, because when I look for some of these people online, I am starting to actually find some of them.

And don’t forget Barbie’s Last Supper by Catherine Théry (no article) (bio)

 The restoration is a project ofAdvancingWomenArtists@AWA_Foundation.

The video is here:

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