Saturday, December 11, 2010

Suor Plautilla Nelli

Italian School
Suor Plautilla Nelli c. 17th cent
Oil on panel, unframed
23 by 17.2 cm
Private collection

Suor Plautilla Nelli (Florence 1524-1588)
A kneeling saint in nun's robes
Signed in pen and brown ink 'Di Suor Plautilla allieva d[e]l Frate'
Black chalk
9 x 7¾ in. (22.8 x 19.7 cm.), unframed
Private collection

Suor Plautilla Nelli (Florence 1524-1588)
Madonna with child and four angels
Oil on Board
42.1 x 31.9 in. / 107 x 81 cm.
Private collection

Polissena Nelli known as Suor Plautilla Nelli (Florence 1524-1588) is the earliest known female Florentine artist.

At the age of fourteen she entered the convent of Saint Catherine of Siena in Florence, a Dominican community whose nuns were devout adherents of the principles preached by Girolamo Savonarola a generation earlier. Here Plautilla spent the rest of her life. She became its prioress in 1568.

She drew particular inspiration from the work of Fra Bartolommeo and his pupil Fra Paolino, both from the Dominican monastery of San Marco. After Fra Paolino's death she was given his collection of drawings by Fra Bartolommeo.

She was the daughter of an artist, Piero di Luca Nelli

Her sister, also a nun, Costanza, (Suor Petronilla) wrote a life of Savonrola

She is one of the two women painters mentioned by Vasari in his Lives

The convent (now destroyed), located in Piazza San Marco, was supposedly annexed into the Galleria dell’Accademia in 1853 and was briefly part of the Accademia delle Belle Arti.

She had a considerable output. Vasari identified various celebrated pieces by Plautilla: two panels in the Church of the Convent of Santa Caterina, particularly her Magi Adoring Jesus; choir panels in the Convent of S. Lucia in Pistoia; a Last Supper in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Caterina; pieces at San Giovannino and at Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence; and altar pieces and a large panel in the Hospital of Lelmo. He also noted her many pieces owned privately, which he felt too numerous to detail

Unfortunately her extant oeuvre comprises only three paintings — a Lamentation (Museo di San Marco, Florence), a Last Supper (Santa Maria Novella, Florence), and a Pentecost (San Domenico, Perugia) — along with handful of drawings

Her convent had a considerable artistic output and she was its overseer. The work produced at Santa Caterina was entirely religious in nature.

Fra Serafino Razzi, a sixteenth-century Dominican Friar and historian, named three nuns of Santa Caterina as disciples of Plautilla, Suor Prudenza Cambi, Suor Agata Trabalesi, Suor Maria Ruggieri, and three others as additional producers: Suor Veronica, Suor Dionisia Niccolini, and his sister Suor Maria Angelica Razzi

However it was the enforcement of the rule of clausura (enclosure) as required by the Council of Trent which neither Nelli nor the other nuns wished which drastically reduced the artistic output and income of the convent.