Certosa di Galuzzo

Convent women: both patrons and artists

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A wealthy woman in Nelli’s own convent commissioned the artist’s works. When Nelli’s convent was suppressed in 1810 by Napoleon, her lunette of The Crucifixion was removed from her convent near Piazza San Marco to Certosa del Galluzzo, a Cistercian monastery just outside Florence. There it was put in monastery’s refectory. In Florentine religious communities the subject of Christ’s Crucifixion was almost as common as that of the Last Supper. The earliest Last Supper in Florence is by Taddeo Gaddi and features a majestic fresco of Crucified Christ above his Last Supper on walls of refectory of church of Santa Croce. In the refectory of convent of Sant’Apollonia, steps from Nelli’s own convent, which she undoubtedly visited, Andrea del Castagno frescoed a Crucifixion looming above his Last Supper. Yet Nelli’s patron may have wanted the work placed in another location in convent. Suor Arcangela Viola, prioress of Santa Caterina da Siena, commissioned the lunette in response to her own visions of Christ’s sufferings. She wanted the work placed over a specific staircase in the convent, site of her own spiritual practice of imitation of Christ’s travails.