A close-up shot of Nelli’s "Last Supper" with a ‘spotlight’ on food

Food for the soul

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Last Supper themes were common but Nelli’s “table” is like none other. One of the most remarkable aspects of Nelli’s painting is the variety and detailed description of objects on the table. In the history of Florentine tradition no interest had been paid to the gastronomic details of the dinner scene—the usually only included bread and wine (with the exception of Ghirlandaio’s cherries). Painters in the fifteenth and sixteenth century Italy did not think realistic depictions of food an essential element of the story or interesting artistic creations as Dutch still life painters did. Nelli, on the other hand, depicts an unusual variety of foods (lamb, lettuce and fava beans), among several glasses of wine, rolls of bread. She also included highly detailed imported ceramic bowls, that are thought to have been gifted to her convent by the families of the many noblewomen who resided in her convent. Interestingly, she provides the apostles the kind of meal and specific foods her own community would have eaten (even though they symbolize the occasion.)