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Plautilla Nelli

Plautilla Nelli inspired the founding of Advancing Women Artists. She worked in Florence in the 1500s and her large-scale devotional paintings are a precious ‘exception’ in history.
A Renaissance convent-painter Nelli (1524-1588) was the first known female artist of Florence. A nun by age 14, Pulisena Margherita Nelli became ‘Suor Plautilla’ when she entered the Dominican convent of Santa Caterina da Siena in 1538. Now demolished, it was located on Via Larga (now via Cavour), across from the San Marco monastery in Florence’s elegant Piazza San Marco. The daughter of a merchant family, Nelli hobnobbed with prominent male painters of her day and was known for running a working studio within her convent. Nelli was one of the few female painters mentioned in by Giorgio Vasari in his ‘Lives of Artists’ and she was known to have inherited the drawings of Fra Bartolomeo, a prominent devotional painter who carried on the traditions of Beato Angelico. Nelli’s works were also influenced by Perugino, Andrea del Sarto and Giovanni Antonio Sogliano. Vasari writes that ‘there were so many of her paintings in the houses of gentlemen in Florence, it would be tedious to mention them all.’ This piece of ‘historical trivia’ was one of the driving forces behind the foundation of AWA. When AWA’s founder first restored a work by Nelli in 2006, there were only three confirmed works to her name. In recent years, scholars have uncovered various ground-breaking attributions, expanding Nelli’s oeuvre to some seventeen works.

Our Nelli Restorations

Lamentation with Saints

A masterwork at the San Marco Museum, Florence, AWA’s first-ever restoration.

Saint Dominic receives the Rosary

An art treasure for Nelli’s order at the Last Super Museum of Andrea del Sarto, Florence.

Nelli’s Sketches

The place where all artists begin—drawing.

Saint Catherine in Prayer

The titular saint of Nelli’s convent at Last Super Museum of Andrea del Sarto, Florence.

By giving a voice to historic
women artists AWA rescues
and reclaims the ‘hidden half’
of Florence’s art.

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