Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was an apprentice for the Florentine painter and sculptor, Verrocchio. Around 1481, he traveled to Milan to work for the ruling Sforza family. He spent a lot of time on military andcivil engineering projects, including urban renewal and fortification plans for the city. He also worked for various patrons including the Duke of Milan
Refectory of the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Showing Leonardos Last Supper. This slide shows the room (restored) where Leonardo’s painting is situated. It was originally used as a dining hall for the monks of this monastery. The coats of arms at the top arethose of patron Ludovico Sforza, the duke of Milan and his wife, Beatrice.
Leonardo da Vinci. The Last Supper. 1495–1498. 15’ 2" × 28’ 10”. Commissioned by the Sforza family. Tempera and oil on plaster (experimentaltechnique). This painting began to deteriorate shortly after Leonardo finished it. By mid-16th century, the figures could be seen only with difficulty. In the 17th century, monks cut a doorway through the lower center. When the door was cut, so was the painting.
“The painting’s careful geometry, the convergence of its perspective lines, thestability of its pyramidal forms, and Jesus calm demeanor at the mathematical center of all the commotion together reinforce the sense of gravity, balance, and order. The clarity and stability of this painting epitomizes High Renaissance style.
The ebb and flow of movement in the Last Supper is the outward effect of the inner causes of emotion; the individual movement of each disciple typifies their personalities. For example, at the group to the left of Christ:look at the impulsive surge of shock expressed by Peters angular motion,as he elbows his way towards Christ which is carefully contrasted with thesleepy curves of young John, and set in counterpoint to the tense recoil of Judas, those tendons contract like taut bow strings.....The action of the painting centers around the variety of reactions caused by Christs pronouncement, I say to you that one of you is about to betray me (Matt 26:21). Christs own hands, his right closing towards a glass of wine and his leftdirected towards a piece of bread, suggest his institution of the Eucharist. Peter holds a knife which prefigures his severing of a soldiers ear, and which is also pointed towards Bartholomew at the end of the table, perhaps in anticipation of the latters martyrdom by flaying.
The theme of the Last Supper was a common theme in Renaissance painting. This example is by Andrea del Castagno, 1447. Width approx. 16’ × 32’, fresco. There is a great difference between Castegno and Leonardo.
This painting has been through so much in the span of more than 500 years. Here are photos of the building containing Last Supper after WWII bombing. The paintingnarrowly escaped complete destruction.
The last restoration of this painting was completed in 1999 (begun in1979). As you can see in this detail, there is very little actual paint left. This is a surprising fact!