The Last Supper (Leonardo da Vinci): Masterpiece of the Italian High Renaissance

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The Last Supper

‘The Last Supper’ also known as L’Ultima Cena or Il Cenacolo in Italian. It is a masterpiece of the Italian High Renaissance.

When was The Last Supper painted?

The last supper was painted in late 15th century by Leonardo da Vinci approximately around 1495-1496.

Who commissioned the artwork?

It was commissioned by Duke of Milan ( L’Ultima Cena was duke of Milan from 1494 to 1499). He was the patron (supporter or financer) of Leonardo da Vinci.

Where was it painted?

The Last Supper is a mural and was painted directly on wall next to his father’s burial place in Santa Maria Delle Grazie (Church in Milan, Italy).

It occupies an end wall in the dining hall at the convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan.

When was it restored?

Last restoration process took 19 years from 1980 to 1999. Most of the original work is now lost.

How big is last supper?

460 cm × 880 cm or 180 in × 350 in or 15 ft × 29 ft

What does it depict?

The painting represents the scene of The Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples during his last days, as it is told in the Gospel of John, 13:21.

Flanked by his twelve apostles, Jesus has just declared that one of them will betray him. The picture depicts the reaction of each disciple to the news.

Peter is holding the knife and looking agitated to kill Jesus. On left Bartholomew, James Minor and Andrew are all surprised by seeing the dagger in the hand of Peter while he whispers his plans in the ears of John (youngest apostle). According to some authors, it’s not John but Mary Magdalene.

External Link: Was Mary Magdalene Wife of Jesus? Was Mary Magdalene a Prostitute?

James Minor has one of his hands on Peter the other on Andrew, although he is silenced but he tries to calm down the others from both fear (Andrew) and anger (Peter). Andrew lifting his hands up in both disbelief and try to ward off any suspicions that he may be the traitor. Bartholomew has both of his hands on the table, which expresses anger and disbelief.

Judas is holding a small bag, no doubt symbolising the 30 pieces of silver he has been paid to betray Jesus. If you looked closely, you’ll see that he also spilt the salt pot. In a European superstition spilling salt is an evil omen thus Leonardo symbolised him as evil or symbol of his betrayal.

John almost faints by listening to Peter. At the same time, Jesus declares that one of his apostles will betray him. James, Thomas and Philip are shocked by listening to this and cries for an explanation. Emotions can be clearly seen in the face of Philip.

Jude Thaddeus and Matthew turn to Simon the Zealot for answers.

Since there are only written records of the event, artists who were born and lived long after the event used their imagination to paint. Each artist decides where the scene takes place, what the light conditions are, what the clothing looks like, and what the people look like.

Interesting Fact

His head represents the vanishing point for all perspective lines. It uses almost all the rules of one-point linear perspective and can be considered the epitome of Renaissance art period.

Mathematical Symbolism
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci

The painting contains a number of allusions to the number 3, (perhaps symbolising the Holy Trinity). The disciples are seated in groups of three; there are three windows, while the figure of Jesus is given a triangular shape, marked by his head and two outstretched arms. source

Giovanni Maria Pala, an Italian musician, has indicated that the positions of hands and loaves of bread can be interpreted as notes on a musical staff and, if read from right to left, as was characteristic of Leonardo’s writing, form a musical composition.

The opposite wall of the Last Supper is covered by the Crucifixion fresco by Giovanni Donato da Montorfano, to which Leonardo added figures of the Sforza family in tempera.

Old Copies of The Last Supper

Two early copies of The Last Supper are known to exist, presumed to be work by Leonardo’s assistants. The copies are almost the size of the original and have survived with a wealth of original detail still intact. One accurate copy, by Giampietrino, is in the collection of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the other, with some alterations to the background design, by Cesare da Sesto, is installed at the Church of St. Ambrogio in Ponte Capriasca, Switzerland. A third copy (oil on canvas) is painted by Andrea Solari (ca. 1520) and is currently on display in the Leonardo da Vinci Museum of the Tongerlo Abbey, Belgium.


 


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