Art Defense Fund creators Margaret MacKinnon and Wayne McArdle with 'double' adopteR Beverley McLachlin.

Art Defense Fund creators Margaret MacKinnon and Wayne McArdle with 'double' adopteR Beverley McLachlin.

Who’s Involved

There is nothing better than matching the story of 'real people' with Nelli's Renaissance story. Nelli ran a thriving painting workshop at a time when it was unheard of for organized groups of women to generate income. To paint the Last Supper, Nelli worked with nuns she trained, and the painting shows evidence of being executed by several painterly hands, as was the case for most bottega-generated masterpieces in the 1500s. Its restoration is also a collective effort!

Here's a glimpse at participants of The Art Defense Fund. We hope you'll join them. We at AWA are happy to see the development of this growing group effort... The figure of Judas deserves to be saved.

The Art Defense Fund was conceived as a project that would appeal particularly to members of the legal profession whose training includes the principle that anyone accused of wrongdoing deserves a fair hearing and the best possible defense. But it seems that the figure of Judas can attract other advocates – not solely those with a background in the law.

The inaugural member of the ADF is Sarah Dunant, the British historian, broadcaster and best-selling author. A long-standing supporter of AWA, Sarah chose to support Judas in recognition of his central role in the story of the Last Supper. It is impossible to imagine the story of Christ's death and resurrection without the inclusion of Judas and his role in the unfolding drama.

The second donor to the ADF is a retired Canadian schoolteacher, Monica Martin. At almost 94 years of age, Mrs. Martin is AWA's oldest sponsor. She devoted her working life to teaching high school students Economics, Math and Business Studies. It is easy to imagine her presiding over her classroom with the same authority and mastery with which Nelli ran her convent workshop.

Beverley McLachlin, the first female Chief Justice of Canada's Supreme Court, is another early supporter of the ADF. Nelli's Saint Judas Thaddeus was adopted in Beverley's honor on the occasion of her retirement from the Court. Now she is sponsoring the Other Judas, a figure whose complex character and conflicting motivations are often overlooked.

London residents Michael Furtado, a Canadian banker, and his wife Ingrid, a lawyer from South Africa, are also lending their support towards the restoration of Nelli's Last Supper to ensure it reclaims its place in history with other great Renaissance works of art. They are looking forward to taking their two young daughters to Florence to see it 'in person' when the fully restored painting is exhibited in the Santa Maria Novella Museum.

New ADF supporter, Nicholas Davidson, QC, admits that while he never expected to find himself sponsoring Judas Iscariot, he considers it entirely appropriate that an English barrister would assume Judas's defence in accordance with the 'Cab Rank' rule, which provides that barristers, like cab drivers, are obliged to take the next customer in the queue, not only without discrimination but regardless of any belief one may have as to his or her character or reputation, or as to the facts. As Nicholas himself concedes, "it's not as if all my clients have been reputable" – or anyone else’s.

The sixth ADF member, travel writer and founder of Private Tours Italy, Mark Gordon Smith, is a staunch AWA supporter, having already made a significant contribution to the FirstLast crowdfunding campaign. By putting the ADF past the half-way point, Mark, who is based in North Carolina, continues to demonstrate his commitment to AWA's mission to recognise the cultural legacy of Florence's forgotten women artists.