Leonardo Da Vinci: 'The Last Supper'
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Leonardo Da Vinci: 'The Last Supper'

‘The Last Supper’ created by the15th century Italian master painter Leonardo da Vinci is an enduring artistic masterpiece of sublimity and grandeur.

‘The Last Supper’ created by the15th century Italian master painter Leonardo da Vinci is an enduring artistic masterpiece of sublimity and grandeur. It is a mural painting in Milan, Italy and Leonardo da Vinci created this immortal classic in honor of his patron, Duke Ludovico Sforza and his duchess Beatrice d’Este. The painting is the scene of the Last Supper as narrated in the Gospel of John (13:21). In the Gospel of John, Jesus announced in the scene of the Last Supper that one of his 12 disciples would betray him.

Leonardo’s painting ‘The Last Supper’ adorns the rear wall of the dining hall at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. It is believed that it took nearly 3 years to complete the painting. It was so because Leonardo did not work on the painting continuously for any long period. The exact date of the beginning of the work is not known but it is recorded that the work was finished in 1497. The painting has a measurement of 450 × 870 centimeters (15 feet × 29 feet)

‘The Last Supper’ is not a true fresco as it is painted not on wet plaster. It is painted on a dry wall. Modification is not possible on a fresco as the artist advances in his work and hence Leonardo sealed the stone wall with a layer of pitch, gesso and mastic. Then he painted on to the sealing layer with tempera. However, this method could not ensure the quality of the painting in the long run. The great work began to deteriorate after a few years of its creation.

THE LAST SUPPER as it looked in the 1970's

Leonardo, the master artist has very specifically portrayed the reactions of each of the 12 disciples of Christ in vivid narration. They all have different emotional reactions to the Christ’s announcement that one of his disciples would betray him. Bartholomew, James and Andrew were surprised. Judas is seen taken aback at the unexpected revelation of his scheme. He is seen clutching at a small bag, obviously suggesting the silver he received for the betrayal. Peter is seen agitated and holding a knife pointed away from Christ. John is presented as swooning as he hears the news. Thomas and James the Greater are upset and Philip is seen as requesting some explanation from the master. Matthew and Jude appear turned toward Simon.

image source   THE LAST SUPPER superimposed with its mirror image

‘The Last Supper’ is not a true fresco as it is painted not on wet plaster. It is painted on a dry wall. Modification is not possible on a fresco as the artist advances in his work and hence Leonardo sealed the stone wall with a layer of pitch, gesso and mastic. Then he painted on to the sealing layer with tempera. However, this method could not ensure the quality of the painting in the long run. The great work began to deteriorate after a few years of its creation.

image source   THE LAST SUPPER made in salt

After a few decades since the creation of ‘The Last Supper’, Leonardo da Vinci’s immortal creation ‘The Last Supper’ began to flake. The work deteriorated and figures became unrecognizable. A doorway was cut through the painting and later it was redone and the patch work is seen at the center base of the painting. In the original work Jesus' feet were in a position similar to that of the subsequent crucifixion. There were attempts to preserve the painting. During the middle of the seventeenth century, a curtain was hung over the painting. However this caused other damages. It dampened Leonardo’s ‘The Last Supper’ and scratches appeared on the flaking paint.

LEONARDO DA VINCI (self-portrait)

There were repeated attempts to restore the damaged work of Leonardo da Vinci. Michelangelo Bellotti tried to restore ‘The Last Supper’ in 1726. He used oil paint and varnish to fill in the missing parts of the work. But it was not very successful and later in 1770 Giuseppe Mazza repainted it almost except three figures when he was prevented by public outrage. In 1796 French troops caused extensive damage to the work when they used the refractory as an armory and later a prison. In the year 1821, Stefano Barezzi, an expert in restoring frescos was appointed to relocate ‘The Last Supper’ to a safer place. But it did further damage to the painting. There were successive attempts at restoring the lost glory of ‘The Last Supper’.

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REFERENCES:

1. Kenneth Clark.Leonardo da Vinci, Penguin Books 1939, 1993, p144.

2. P.B. Barcilon and P.C. Marinin, Leonardo: The Last Supper, University of Chicago Press, 1999, p19.

3. Goldberg, Vicki (1998-09-25). "''It's a Leonardo? It's a Corot? Well, No, It's Chocolate Syrup'', New York Times, 1998". New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9406EED61639F936A1575AC0A96E958260# .

4. "Marisol (Marisol Escobar): Self-Portrait Looking at The Last Supper (1986.430.1-129)". Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1986.430.1-129 .

5. "Last Supper (copy after Leonardo)". University of the Arts, London. http://www.universalleonardo.org/work.php?id=572.  

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Comments (2)

Good work. Thanks for sharing.

Ranked #18 in Art & Art History

Thank you Rana Sinha for visiting and commenting

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