The Last Supper – One of the Neat Breaks in Western Art!

Title: Last Supper (Il Cenacolo or L’Ultima Cena)

Author: Leonardo Da Vinci (Anchiano, Italy, 15 April 1452 – Amboise, France, 2 May 1519 )

Date: 1495-1498

Genre: Group portrait

Movement: High Renaissance

Technique: Drywall painting

Support: Drywall

Dimension: 460 cm x 880 cm (height x width)

Location: Plaza Della Grazie

Today, we are in Italy, the birthplace of many fundamental artworks and architecture for examining Leonarda Davinci’s Last Supper. Feel the Warm Breeze of The Mediterranean Lands! Cominciamo!

Leonardo Da VinciLast Supper (Il Cenacolo or L’Ultima Cena), 1495-1498.

We are heading to the heart of Milan and entering the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria Della Grazie like the other people flock here. Later, we are reaching the Refectory, where the monks were eating. Finally, we are moving to the north wall, and suddenly we notice one of the most known renaissance arts in the entire world, The Last Supper. It is also such a famous artwork since its survival is a miracle. Besides, I am not just referring to this argument out of the blue; the art historians are nearly on the same page about the Last Supper being the second most known painting globally. Where do you stand on this?

Santa Maria Della Grazie monastery – Milan.

Where Is the Painting of The Last Supper?

In the fifteenth century, this painting came to life due to the order by the duke of Milan. The painting was a commission for a monastery’s dining room. It occupies the wall as a whole, which is devastating!

Last Supper is located in the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria Della Grazie in Milan.

Despite the artwork being physically located here, its story leads us thousands of km away from Milan to Jerusalem. What we are looking at in the painting are Jesus and his twelve disciples.

The Meaning of The Last Supper

The subject matter was traditional The Last Supper mentioned in the bible. The Last Supper is the final meal shared by Jesus and his 12 apostles in an upper room in Jerusalem, the occasion of the institution of the Eucharist.

According to the story, The Last Supper in the Bible, Christ says to his twelve apostles, “One of you will betray me,” and the apostles react, each according to his personality. People often read this painting as a reaction to that historical moment. So what we see is this incredible set of behavior from the apostles around the table. Did Jesus Tell Judas Betray Him?

Christ is reaching towards a bread with his right hand and his left hand towards a glass of wine. We can say that it is the institution of sacrament. In the Christian world, it is known as the sacrament of the Eucharist. In this Holy Communion, Christ blessing the bread and saying;

“Take, eat; this is my body”, and blessing the wine and saying “Drink from it all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins”

Later, Christ says; 

“He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.”

The Hidden Message in the Last Supper

In The Last Supper, the hidden message is that although earlier artworks from other painters are depicted the 13 apostles as saints, Da Vinci’s painting states the disciples were familiar people and that even Jesus himself was mortal.

This picture of Last Supper is believed to be the most accurate record of the original made by Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio.

Why Does Judas Betray Jesus?

There is one person who reaches out to the table while Christ is reaching out also. That is one of the ways Christ identifies who would betray him. To Christ’s left is Judas Iscariot, who is the one going to betray Christ. The Romans paid him. Besides, he grasped one bag of money in his right hand in the painting. While the Roman soldiers watched Christ, Judas would kiss him and reveal his identity, causing Christ to be caught. 

Leonarda’s depiction, allows us to understand this biblical event, which leads to the period of the crucifixion of Christ. 

Trace of Judas’ Betrayal in The Last Supper!

Judas sits apart from the rest of the apostles and on the opposite side of the table in the other Last Supper depictions by different painters. But in this painting, Judas takes the closest place to Christ. Art historians think that has two main reasons. The first one is to keep the silence in the monastic refectories; the monks did not sit opposite each other while eating. 

The other point is Leonarda does not want to emphasize the betrayal. Somehow, the betrayal is highlighted in the previous composition, but he shows the disloyalty by rendering the small pocket of money and a reached-out hand to the table. Plus, if you look closely, we notice that Judas is the only figure that has overshadowed appearance in the painting.

What Did Jesus Say About Doubting Thomas?

To Crist’s right is a group of three. To him, right next to is John the Baptist, his cousin, looked resigned. The old figure in blue, leaning towards John, is St. Peter, founder of the Catholic Church and Christ’s protector. Peter holds the knife, which later he will cut off the ear of one of the Roman soldiers who come to capture Christ. 

To Jesus’s right is Skeptical Thomas raising his finger to the sky. 

Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas.

When Jesus awakes three days after his crucifixion and appears to his apostles, Thomas is not there. Afterward, he does not believe the apostles’ words that they have seen Jesus. He said that he wouldn’t think until he saw him and put his finger on his side wound. Later, Jesus comes again and lets Thomas touch his scar with his finger. (One of the most critical works on this story belongs to Caravaggio. )

Thomas’ finger pointing at the sky at our artwork is a reference to this story.

Da Vinci’s geometric logic meets Last Supper’s Mathematical Purity!

Self-portrait of Leonarda Da Vinci.

It is not just a frozen moment in the frame, and it also shows us echoes of the past story and what it comes. It is pretty similar to seeing cinematography. 

Until this period of the High Renaissance, perspective has not found a place in Western painting. But Leonardo achieves the interaction of apostles. This painting is an impeccable example of the linear perspective. The vanishing point of perspective, the center of the painting, is Jesus’s head. The way that all of those perspective lines bring us towards him. 

Upon Christ is a white light from the window. Moreover, we observe that the holy halo in the previous periods disappeared in this artwork. Using the light helps to emphasize the vanishing point and fill the place of the vanishing halo. 

In addition, on the behind are three windows referring to holy three; father, son, holy soul.

Why is Judas Pictured Close to Christ as John the Baptist and St. Peter?

The statement made here is as follows:

Leonardo may have wanted to explain that Judas’ betrayal stemmed from too much admiration and fear of losing Jesus. In reality, Judas loved Jesus excessively and feared that unknown persons might murder him.

The Last Supper is Uniting The Earthly and The Divine!

If you have a chance to look at earlier paintings of the last supper, you can understand what Leonardo does is he simplifies everything and focus on those figures and their gestures. Once we look into our painting, there is no vacancy behind the table, and figures occupy so much space. And It’s a great symbol that demarcates our world from the world of Christ and his apostles. There is no way to access that space for us. 

Last Supper, fresco by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1480 in the Church of Ognissanti, Florence.

How Did Da Vinci Create The Last Supper?

Diving in The Technical Details!

It’s a unique fresco. For this reason, we need to examine the painting by going into its technical details.

Before, the painters used this technique on raw plaster. But Da Vinci did not follow the rules, and he developed a new technique. 

In the original technique, the painter starts the work by removing the plaster on the wall and applying it again. Hence, the paint thoroughly penetrates the wall. 

First, Leonarda began to re-plastered the wall. Later individually, a layer of calcium and magnesium was applied to attach the colors, and a lead layer was used to increase the light. 

In this way, Leonardo went out of the method, and the wall was left to dry. But the painting is in terrible condition now, and unfortunately, it began to deteriorate soon after it was completed. 

But apart from that, don’t you think it takes the courage of Leonard to try this new method?

Here we finish by examining The Last Supper, one of the most known artworks. Letting you with her quotes;

” Art is never finished only abandoned.”

Leonardo Da Vinci

Last but not least, if you are intrigued by art, we will have a blast seeing you here. Hope every art-related thing will find you, see you in our following review ????????✌

Ps: I recommend watching ‘’The Private Life of a Masterpiece: The Last Supper’’

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