Leonardo da Vinci 1452 – 1519

The Last Supper (1)

oil and tempera on plaster (460 × 880 cm) — ca. 1495/98 Museum Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan

Leonardo da Vinci biography

This work is linked to Mark 14:24

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Jesus has just told his followers that he is about to be betrayed by one of them. We see the reactions of all. From left to right:

Bartholomew, James Minor and Andrew are flabbergasted by the announcement. Jude is hanging over the table, small money pouch in his right hand. Peter is angry, demanding that John find out whom Jesus is referring to. John looks about to faint. Jesus looks imperturbable, acquiescent – as if he just wants to get on with sharing the bread and wine. Thomas is angry, James Major looks stunned and seems to be holding back Thomas and Philip. Philip seems to be looking for an explanation. Matthew, Thaddeus and Simon are emerged in a lively conversation, most likely about the betrayal.

All the disciples' feet are visible, be it vaguely. Jesus, however, has to do without. When the monastery was renovated at some point in time, someone decided to have a door put in, sacrificing Jesus' feet in the process.

The Last Supper is in every aspect a remarkable composition, with excellent use of perspective, lively figures and strong emotions.

For this fresco, Leonardo tried out a new technique. He painted on a dry layer of plaster instead of a wet one, so as to achieve livelier colors and sharper images. It worked well, but unfortunately the tempera started peeling.

Through the centuries restorers have applied layers of varnish upon which oils were applied to repaint the work.

A bombing in 1943 fortunately spared the refectory. However, the building itself was severely damaged, causing damp problems. The fresco became moldy as a result.

At the latest restoration effort in 1999, concluding a period of 20 years of restoration, attempts were made to remove as many non-original layers as possible. This is a picture of the painting before the 1999 restoration.
We also have a photo after the restoration.

More information on the Last Supper in art.

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