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10 Facts about The Last Supper by Leonardo You Should Know

The Last Supper by Leonardo
Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1495–1498, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy. Wikimedia Commons.

Renaissance

10 Facts about The Last Supper by Leonardo You Should Know

The legendary 15th century painter Leonardo da Vinci has an impressive legacy of artwork that leaves people astonished and awestruck even today. The maestro has left behind a huge number of artworks and sculptures that played a pivotal role in adding momentum to the Renaissance movement.

Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1495–1498, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy. Wikimedia Commons. Detail.

The Leonardo Da Vinci artworks have always impressed the critics and mass for their subtlety, hidden meanings, and artistic appeal. However, some of his creations have reached cult status- leading to numerous interpretations and leaving a huge impact on the art and culture scene. One such legendary famous Christian artwork by the maestro is the painting of The Last Supper.

Nuances of The Last Supper by Leonardo

This mural painting, created in the late 15th-century was completed in 3 years and work was started in 1495. Located in Milan’s Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, it is hailed as one of the most iconic paintings by da Vinci-with deep Christian symbolism. The original painting has a dimension of 4.6 meters x 8.8 meters. The topic is the last meal taken by Jesus with his apostles before he gets betrayed by Judas. The painting is in fact a visual interpretation of the event chronicled in the Christian New Testament. It depicts the reaction of the apostles after Christ reveals that one of them is going to betray him.

1. Little of the Original Painting Remains Today


When Da Vinci started painting the mural, he did not have much expertise in it. He did a bit of experimentation and pigmentation was done on dry plaster wall. That is why the painting did not pass the test of time well. Even when it was in progress, problems of flaking appeared. Da Vinci had to face much hassle in fixing those issues at that time. Over the years, it underwent a number of restoration efforts. Therefore, very little of the original masterpiece remains now.

The Last Supper by Leonardo
Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1495–1498, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy. Wikimedia Commons. Detail.

2. Painting Captures a Crucial and Climactic Moment

 It is well known that The Last Supper, one of the iconic Christian paintings deals with the last meal of Jesus with his 12 apostles. This was followed by his capture and crucifixion. However, da Vinci was keener on capturing the reactions of the apostles through the painting when they came to know from Jesus of his knowledge about one betrayer. The reactions and emotions on their faces is what makes the painting even more captivating.

3. Not Kept in Museum


Unlike some other paintings by Leonardo Da Vinci, The Last Supper cannot be found in any museum. It is kept at a convent in Italy’s Milan. Moving it from the wall of Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie would be tricky as well.

Interior of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy. Nomadicniko.com.

4. Not a Fresco

Contrary to widespread belief, this iconic painting cannot be classified as a fresco. Frescos are not painted on dry plaster. However, deviating from the usual methods led to hardships later.

5. Painting Underwent Many Restorations


It is among those famous Christian paintings that underwent several restoration rounds to survive the test of time. The tempera-on-stone experiment of DA Vinci was not much successful. The paint started decaying and flaking by as early as the 16th century. There were several restoration efforts that left little of the original painting intact.

Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1495–1498, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy. Wikimedia Commons. Detail.

6. The Look of the Apostles

The viewers cannot help admiring the look of the apostles in the painting. There is a theory that each of these apostles was modeled on real life persons. For depicting Judas, Da Vinci reportedly chose a criminal.

7. John May Be Actually Mary


At the right side of Jesus in the painting is the apostle John. However, a section of biblical scholars feel the person depicted in the painting is not actually Apostle John. The person is the only one among the apostles wearing a pendant or necklace and so they assume she could be Mary Magdalene in disguise.

The Last Supper by Leonardo
Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1495–1498, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy. Wikimedia Commons. Detail.

8. Judas Is Depicted as Stereotypical Jew

By analyzing the painting closely, it becomes clear that Da Vinci depicted Judas in a typical way to make him resemble traditional Jews. Judas is the only person among the apostles with dark skin. He has a crooked nose.  He is seen drinking milk while others are sipping wine. He is seen with a bag of money as well.

The Last Supper by Leonardo
Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1495–1498, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy. Wikimedia Commons. Detail.

9. Numerological Significance


It is well known that Da Vinci used maths and numerological aspects in his artwork and the Last Supper is no exception. In this painting, number 3 has been depicted in many ways. This stands for the Holy Trinity- a biblical concept the painter believed in. The apostles are present in groups of 3 and there are 3 windows at the backside of the apostles and Jesus. Jesus is positioned as a triangle in the painting as well.

10. Damaged by Warfare

It is not only weather elements that ravaged the painting over the centuries. In the late 17th century, the painting was damaged by the French revolutionary soldiers. Later, in World War II, bombing vibrations damaged the building where the painting is kept.

Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1495–1498, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy. Wikimedia Commons. Detail.

Vandana Sethi

Vandana is the Co-founder and Editor of Historyly, a teacher by profession. She has a passion for reading and writing about different historical periods. Historyly was started with the view to make ancient history meaningful and interesting to the everyday reader.

This is our guest profile for occasional authors. If you have an interesting story about art to tell, send it to our Editor-in-chief Kate at [email protected] You might be the next here!

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