Santa Maria delle Grazie and Leonardo daVinci's The Last Supper   ............................  Leonardo da Vinci - Table of Contents 

  Leonardo daVinci's The Last Supper mural
Milan, Italy

The Last Super in Art

The refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan forms an integral part of this architectural complex, begun in 1463 and reworked at the end of the 15th century by Bramante. On the north wall is The Last Supper, the unrivalled masterpiece painted between 1495 and 1497 by Leonardo da Vinci, whose work was to herald a new era in the history of art.

The painting was commissioned in 1495 and completed in 1497. The representation by Leonardo da Vinci depicted the moment immediately after Christ said, “One of you will betray me” Leonardo rejected the classical interpretation of the composition and had Jesus in the midst of the Apostles; he also created four groups of three figures on either side of Christ. The 12 Apostles reacted in differing ways; their movements and expressions are magnificently captured in Leonardo's work.

The genius of the artist is seen especially in the use of light and strong perspective. Unfortunately, Leonardo did not work in fresco but in tempera on a two-layered surface of plaster that did not absorb paint. It was as early as 1568 when Vasari first pointed out problems with this painting technique.

This work has highly influenced not only the development of one iconographic theme, but also the entire development of painting. Heydenreich wrote about the “superdimension” of its painted bodies in relation to space. It is one of the first classic paintings that focuses on a precise and very short moment of time, instead of a long one. After five centuries, the Last Supper is one of most reproduced and copied paintings, and its creation in 1495-1497 is considered to have heralded a new phase in the history of art.

The Last Supper is one of Leonardo's best-known and worst-preserved pieces. Doomed from the start by Leonardo's experimental technique, the mural began to deteriorate even before the artist's death. Within 50 years it was almost indecipherable, and it was repainted twice during the 18th century.

Its suffering continued through the 19th century, first at the hands of Napoleon's soldiers, then from the monks who actually cut a door through the bottom.

After miraculously surviving the Allied bombs of World War II, the beleaguered mural's luck began to change. Restorers discovered that much of the original work remained, and it is once again a joy to behold.

2016 photos

Left: Covent where the mural was painted ... Center: Cloister - a covered walk in a convent, monastery, college, or cathedral, typically with a wall on one side and a colonnade open to a quadrangle on the other ... Right: Church

Convent entrance.
"During World War II, on the night of 15 August 1943, an Anglo-American aerial bombardment hit the church and the convent. Much of the refectory [where the mural was painted] was destroyed, but some walls survived, including the one that holds the "The Last Supper," which had been sand-bagged in order to protect it. Some preservation works are done to maintain it for the future." - Wikipedia: Santa Maria delle Grazie (online April 2016)

Although the room was originally used as a refectory - a room for communal meals - today the room is a museum.

An important restoration of the Last Supper was completed at the end of the 1990. Careful treatment of the extremely delicate and considerably deteriorated paint layer restored the work’s hidden colours.
Details below:

Note the tie rod anchor at bottom just left of center

Far right: St. John the Apostle, depicted usually as a young man without a beard.

Ceiling above Jesus

Photos and their arrangement 2016 Chuck LaChiusa
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