|The Last Supper|
|Artist||Leonardo da Vinci|
|Medium||Tempera on gesso, pitch and mastic|
|Location||Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan|
|Dimensions||181 in × 346 in|
|460 cm × 880 cm|
|Famous Paintings by da Vinci|
|The Last Supper|
|The Baptism of Christ|
|Lady with an Ermine|
|Ginevra de’ Benci|
|Adoration of the Magi|
|St. Jerome in the Wilderness|
|View Complete Works|
The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci, is one of the most famous works of art in the world. It is a large fresco style painting on the wall of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy. It is not a true fresco because it was painted on a dry wall, instead of wet plaster. Unfortunately, because of the medium used, the work began to deteriorate fairly soon after it was painted, and so over the years numerous restoration attempts have been made to restore and preserve it.
Although it took over three years to complete, da Vinci did not actually work on it continuously. No one knows the exact date of commencement due to lost and unreliable record-keeping.
Leonardo da Vinci was arguably one of the greatest men to have ever lived. He was an artist, scientist, architect, author, engineer, inventor, and humanist. In essence, he was a Renaissance man. Da Vinci explored and delved into things which were many centuries ahead of him. He was born in 1452 near Vinci in Italy, and died in Amboise, near Tours France in 1519. As one of the early Renaissance men, he was largely underappreciated in Florence, birth place of the Renaissance, and lived out his days under the appreciative arm of French King Francois I.
His most famous painting, the Mona Lisa stands proud amongst the collection of the Louvre, along with many of his other works.
The Last Supper
The Last Supper is among his most famous works. It is a giant fresco like painting on the side of a wall in a dining hall of a monastery. The painting was commissioned by Sforza and is the perfect subject for a dining hall in a monastery.
Da Vinci’s Last Supper is depicted in this ritual meal as a religious ceremony. Christ is very much the focal point of the entire piece and we have a sense of asymmetrical symmetry as he is flanked by his disciples. There are thirteen people in all (including Christ) and we can see, presumably the figure of Judas Escariot to the right of Christ, as he was still present at the meal. Some have theorized that Mary Magdalene was sitting to the left of Christ in the painting, but this is a contradiction since there had to be twelve disciples, and she was not one of them.
It is interesting to note, that with Christ as the center piece, how he is in fact well framed by the doorway. This provides contrast between his figure and the outside, as well as bringing out eye to the most important figure on the piece.
His arms, head and body form a triangle, as well as the space on the left hand side between him and the figure to his left. The disciples are also nicely arranged into groups of three along the length of the table.
One interesting fact is that there are lines of perspective that radiate from Christ’s head, indicating that he is the focal point of the painting. These perspective lines blend in with the ceiling and walls.
The painting also makes us feel as if we too are a part of it. This formula has been copied and become the standard for symbolic paintings from then on.
The Last Supper is the final meal Christ had with his disciples before he was arrested which ultimately crucified. The scene we are shown is when Christ tells his followers that he is to be betrayed and that he will be leaving them very soon.
In the groups of three, we see the reactions from the apostles to the news. From the far left, we have the first group who all look surprised. No doubt, all would be thinking that they would never betray the Messiah.
The next group, it is likely that Judas is the one holding what appears to be a bag (perhaps of silver?). Behind him is likely Peter, Jesus’ number one disciple who appears angry at the news. And the other person is likely one of the younger apostles, as he appears to swoon. Many have suggested that this is Mary Magdalene, perhaps inspired by the famous Da Vinci Code book.
To the right of Christ, the next group of apostles appears to perhaps be questioning Christ as to the suggestion of betrayal, while the group on the far right is likely discussing loudly regarding the news.
Around sixty years after da Vinci had completed the piece, it started to deteriorate. The figures had already begun to appear quite unrecognizable. In the 18th century, a large curtain had been erected to protect it, but this only made it worse due to the moisture and water it trapped.
The first attempt at restoration was made in the early 1700’s, but this did not go well. Around fifty years later, this restoration work was stripped and a new attempt was made. However, due to public outrage, this attempt was halted as the restorer had repainted all but three of the disciples’ faces.
Over the next couple of centuries, other minor attempts were made to restore it, but it wasn’t until 1978 that a major restoration attempt was made, with modern methods, along with new understanding of the reactions of the elements to the piece. This restoration took around 20 years to complete and it too attracted controversy due to the brightness of the new colors and several forms had changed from the original.
To this day, The Last Supper remains one of the greatest legacies of da Vinci. Despite the second-hand restorations, the piece is still amazing to see, and provides an inspired look into the genius of the great da Vinci. It was also a painting that would inspire new artists to aspire to, in terms of perspective and presentation. It certainly was a turning point in art history that directed art onto a newer and more realistic path.