This special post highlights the current crowd-funding campaign of Advancing Women Artists
The First Last Supper
by Linda Falcone
Plautilla Nelli's 191-pound canvas of The Last Supper needed six men to hoist it through the window and into the conservation studio, but the real window on Nelli has opened during the Advancing Women Artist’s campaign to involve the art-loving public in the restoration of this masterwork. In the last 40 days, Nelli has gone from being a virtually invisible artist to being featured in 86 international newspapers, blogs, websites and magazines, thanks largely to TheFirstLast and the artist’s much-awaited Uffizi debut. The crowdfunding campaign ends on April 16; Nelli’s solo show will continue at Florence’s famed gallery until June 4.
And what would Girolamo Savonarola (who lit the first match on the Bonfire of the Vanities) think about Nelli’s recent appearance in Vanity Fair? For though the fire-and-brimstone Dominican preached in favor of art by convent women, he would likely be scandalized by the recent attention being showered upon the sixteenth-century nun who painted some of the Renaissance’s most precious works by a female artist.
Several best-selling Tuscan-inspired authors from England, Canada and the United States, like Ross King, Dianne Hales and Sarah Dunant have come out in support of Nelli's Last Supper, in addition to Italian actress Elena Sofia Ricci. And so far, 322 people from 14 countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, United Kingdom, USA, United Arab Emirates) have contributed to the crowdfunding campaign, allowing the Foundation to reach 72 percent of our total goal so far.
A surge of support is expected for the final week, but other good news has stemmed from TheFirstLast, which has proved an authentic awareness-raising enterprise, shedding light on the need to salvage the over 2,500 works by women in the Florence museums and storehouses, starting with the largest work in the world by an early woman artist—this 21-foot signed Last Supper, the only work of its kind anywhere.
The project’s overwhelming participation inspired AWA board member Cay Fortune to create an "Adopt an Apostle" program for each of the painting’s 13 figures. She then went on to personally "adopt" Saint John for $10,000. The youngest saint is now "taken," but the other twelve are waiting to be claimed! These funds will serve to complete elements of the conservation project not covered by the crowdfunding and to underwrite the book and AWA documentary spotlighting recent discoveries.
The "Adopt an Apostle" program is especially significant because, as yet, not all of the saints at Nelli’s Last Supper table have been assigned their proper names. Part of the restoration process involves in-depth research with museum curators, conservator Rossella Lari and the Dominican friars of Santa Maria Novella to discover the iconography and stories behind each of the painting’s characters. Sponsors and the art-loving public will discover "who is who" first hand, as the restoration continues.
Participate in TheFirstLast campaign, and help AWA reach its crowdfunding goal!
Linda Falcone is director of the Advancing Women's Artists Foundation. Click below for a inspiring video on Plautilla Nelli.