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The Pious Women
by Plautilla Nelli

05 January 2024

Plautilla Nelli, a Dominican nun from the former convent of St Catherine of Siena and the first known female artist in Florence, painted an intricate altarpiece depicting the Pieta, one of the three works attributed to her with certainty. It was made for the church of the convent where she lived in seclusion.  In the foreground, the lying body of Christ is surrounded and supported by the pious women who caress and protect him. Among them, the mother holds his head in a heartfelt gesture of extreme earthly farewell.  In the middle ground, men watch the scene, and in the background, in the upper part of the canvas, Mount Golgotha and the walls of Jerusalem appear.  In the distance, the mountains and the sky close the view, in a composition in which everything depicted has a profound symbolic value.

Plautilla Nelli | Lamentation over the Dead Christ | c. 1560 | oil on canvas 288 x 192 cm | National Museum of San Marco | Florence (Italy)