Tag Archives: female artists

#FineArtFriday: The Last Supper by Sister Plautilla Nelli (1524–1588)

The Last Supper by Sister Plautilla Nelli  (1524–1588)

Date: 16th century

Medium: oil

Collection: Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

What I love about this painting:

The Last Supper, a 7×2-meter oil-on-canvas, preserved in the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, is the only signed work by Plautilla Nelli known to survive. Her signature, in the upper left corner, reads S. Plavtil – La Ora Te Pro Pictora (Sister Plavtil, Pray for the Paintress).

I love the intimacy of this composition. Jesus hold bread in his left hand as he comforts Saint John.

According to Karen Chernick for her article of October 17, 2019 in Atlas Obscura:

Nelli didn’t paint her “Last Supper” background to look like the dining hall it was designed for, a trick other artists used to make the scene relatable. Instead, she showed Jesus and his apostles dining on the same food that Santa Caterina’s Domincan nuns ate: a whole roasted lamb, bread, wine, heads of lettuce, and fresh fava beans—the last two dishes unprecedented in any depiction of Christ’s last meal. The fava beans were a wink to local cuisine, a Florentine specialty normally eaten by peasants (and nuns).

“Pray for the Paintress,” is a thought I will keep in my heart.

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

Plautilla Nelli’s Last Supper is a first in the history of art rendered by a woman. Painted in the 1560’s, Last Supper was under restoration for four years.[11] The work went on exhibit in October 2019.[12] No female artist had ever painted this subject before Nelli. Florence has the richest tradition of paintings with the theme of last supper in the world. Nelli’s Last Supper, her most significant work because of its size and subject, is a seven-meter long, oil on canvas. After restoration her Last Supper will be exhibited at the Santa Maria Novella Museum in Florence across from Alessandro Allori’s painting with the same theme, also painted in the sixteenth century.

About the Artist (via Wikipedia)

Sister Plautilla Nelli (1524–1588) was a self-taught nun-artist and the first-known female Renaissance painter of Florence. She was a nun of the Dominican convent of St. Catherine of Siena located in Piazza San Marco, Florence, and was heavily influenced by the teachings of Savonarola and by the artwork of Fra Bartolomeo.

Pulisena Margherita Nelli was born into a wealthy family in the San Felice area of Florence. Her father, Piero di Luca Nelli, was a successful fabric merchant and her ancestors originated from the Tuscan valley area of Mugello, as did the Medici dynasty. There is a modern-day street in Florence, Via del Canto de’ Nelli, in the San Lorenzo district, named for her family, and the New Sacristy of the Church of San Lorenzo is the original site of her family homes.[1]

She became a nun at the age of fourteen, taking on the name Suor Plautilla, at the convent of Santa Caterina di Cafaggio; she would later be prioress on three occasions. The facility was managed by the Dominican friars of San Marco, led by Savonarola. About half of all educated girls in that era were placed into convents to avoid the cost of raising a dowry. Savonarola’s preachings promoted devotional painting and drawing by religious women to avoid sloth, thus the convent became a center for nun-artists. Her sister, also a nun, Costanza, (Suor Petronilla) wrote a life of Savonarola.


Credits and Attributions:

Quote from “A Nun’s 450-Year-Old ‘Last Supper’ Makes Its Museum Debut in Florence” by Karen Chernick © 2019 Atlas Obscura. All rights reserved. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/first-last-supper-woman-painter-florence

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Plautilla Nelli – The Last Supper.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Plautilla_Nelli_-_The_Last_Supper.jpg&oldid=371023591 (accessed October 24, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Plautilla Nelli,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Plautilla_Nelli&oldid=922398829 (accessed October 24, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: The Oracle by Marguerite Blasingame


The Oracle – Hawaiian Symbolist by Marguerite Blasingame

Date: circa 1935

Marguerite Blasingame was a Hawaiian artist, world-famous for her sculptures, but less so for her paintings. She painted in a “Symbolist” style, which is very different than surrealism, although the two styles appear to share some commonalities.

About the symbolist style in art, via Wikipedia:

The symbolist painters used mythological and dream imagery. The symbols used by symbolism are not the familiar emblems of mainstream iconography but intensely personal, private, obscure and ambiguous references. More a philosophy than an actual style of art, symbolism in painting influenced the contemporary Art Nouveau style and Les Nabis.

What I love about this picture:

The dreamscape is captivating, inviting you to look closer. The water and the land seem to embrace the figures and the plants, and also cradles the sun. It is perfectly balanced. The colors are intense yet muted; the curving sinuous figures seem both familiar and alien. This painting gives the viewer much to think about.

As a writer, I’m attracted to symbolism in art and literature. When an artist goes to the trouble of offering me something of substance to think about, their work stays with me. I find myself thinking about it long after setting the book down or leaving the gallery.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Marguerite Blasingame (1906 – 1947) founded the Hawaiian Mural Arts Guild in 1934, along with Isami Doi, Madge Tennent, and others. She died young, at the age of only forty one.

On Saturday 15 March 1947, fellow island artist Madge Tennent published the following tribute to Blasingame in The Honolulu Advertiser:

“To her many artist friends she represented a youthful and indomitable vitality in art, which was supported by a capacity for grueling hard work in her chosen field of true fresco and sculptured bas-relief in Hawaiian wood and stone. She was, by almost any way of thinking, too young to die. But the strangely wonderful thing is this, that she has in her sadly short young life, left more important works of art which have been placed where everybody may enjoy them, than any other island artist.”


Credits and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “Marguerite Louis Blasingame,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Marguerite_Louis_Blasingame&oldid=885666667 (accessed June 27, 2019).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:The Oracle – Hawaiian Symbolist by Marguerite Blasingame.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:The_Oracle_-_Hawaiian_Symbolist_by_Marguerite_Blasingame.jpg&oldid=276120985 (accessed June 27, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Symbolism (arts),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Symbolism_(arts)&oldid=894767208 (accessed June 27, 2019).

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