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The Last Supper – Top-five Facts

What makes Nelli's Last Supper extraordinary? Here's what you most need to know…
  • With her masterwork, Plautilla Nelli placed herself among the ranks of her male contemporaries: Leonardo Da Vinci, Andrea del Sarto and Domenico Ghirlandaio—all of whom painted Last Suppers to prove their prowess as art professionals.
  • Our conservator believes that Nelli would have needed male help to stretch her 21-foot canvas. To get it into the restoration studio, we needed six strong transporters! The canvas (without a frame!) weighs 191 pounds.
  • Some of her saints have ‘obvious’ iconography: Saint John is embraced by Jesus and ‘doubting’ Saint Thomas has his index finger raised as if about to engage in debate. But what about the others? Not all saints have been identified, so museum curators and Dominican monks are doing some detective work! Leonardo’s Last Supper provides a road-map of sorts, as scholars believe she emulated his 'order'.
  • Nelli’s Apostles are life-size. To put them to canvas she would have needed to construct scaffolding and climb up it to paint the saints' upper bodies. We are talking about a self-taught artist with no training in Anatomy. For Renaissance women (especially nuns) live-model drawing was unheard-of and illegal. It is thought that Nelli used women models; but she undoubtedly had contact with men as well, as her convent was cloistered only for part of her stay there.
  • Nelli was revolutionary in several ways. She was a self-taught artist who taught other women to paint. As demand for her works grew, she established a workshop within the walls of her convent, comparable in many ways to that of its all-male guild counterparts. The Last Supper is thought to be a collective effort…and one of the earliest examples of entrepreneurial women doing business!
Do you want to know more about Nelli?
Here's a video, co-produced by The Uffizi Galleries, Firenze Musei and AWA, on show at the Uffizi Galleries during Nelli's Uffizi Exhibition in 2017: