Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Renaissance Folk Artist

Plantilla Nelli

This classic Renaissance folk artist was a  self-taught painter and illustrator. A  Dominican nun - at 14 -  in Florence she was born in 1524 as Pulisena Margherita Nelli. 

She was a prioress at Santa Caterina da Siena in Florence, Italy that was led by Dominican Friar Giraloma Savonarola. He encouraged religious women to created devotional painting and drawing.

It is believed that he did not approve of them being idle so art became an acceptable, approved activity.

16th century historians note that her inspiration evolved from copying works of painter Fra Bartolomeo who was known for his religious paintings.  Art critics report that her portrayals reveal a depth of emotion on her characters' faces. 

And she captured this depth despite the fact that she had no formal training
Although her subjects were 'traditional' themes that followed acceptable stylistic forms, they can still be considered folk art. Folk art is art produced by non-professional/trained artists.

Interesting to note, however, that as a result of her religious vocation, she did not paint nude males. As a result, according to historians,  her male figures are said to have “feminine characteristics”.

Her work however was supported by both male and female patrons and included large-scale paintings, book illustrations, and drawings.

First Woman Artist of Florence

She was among folk artists featured in the Emmy-winning PBS television documentary Invisible Women, Forgotten Artists of Florence, The film was based on Dr. Jane Fortune’s book by the same title which hails her as the first woman artist of Florence.

It is interesting that Nelli lacked any formal training. That combined with her religious vocation (which prohibited study of the nude male) resulted in her male figures appearing to have “feminine characteristics".

Some of her works are on display in these Italian museums and churches:

  • San Marco Museum
  • Andrea del Sarto Last Supper Museum
  • Certosa di Galluzzo Monastery
  • Santa Maria Novella
  • Basilica of San Domenico

 Related Information:

Photo: Painted Madonna

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