Last Supper

Last Supper c1495-98

One of Leonardo’s most famous paintings, and famous during his own lifetime, the Last Supper is now but a shadow of its former self as it would have appeared on completion in 1497. A combination of the unorthodox painting techniques employed by Leonardo, the pervading dampness of the refectory wall and repeated programmes of restoration that began as early as 1517, have all contributed to the substantial deterioration of the painting.

However, the most recent campaign of restoration completed in 1999 seems to have halted the deterioration of the painting’s surface and brought to light the original colour of the work. Furthermore, previously unobserved details are now apparent, such as the wall-hangings and their patterns seen on the side walls of the room in which the “Last Supper” takes place and the objects on the table.

The coats of arms that appear in the lunettes above the painting indicate that the painting was not commissioned by the monks of Santa Maria delle Grazie, but by Ludovico Sforza, who was also the patron of the new choir of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which was intended as a family mausoleum for Ludovico and his family. The fact that the Last Supper is described in glowing terms by Luca Pacioli in his Divina Proportione, dedicated to Ludovico Sforza in February 1498, indicates that the painting was probably completed some time in 1497.

Pacioli mentions how the painting describes the moment at which Christ announced, “One of you shall betray me” (Matthew 26:21).

  • Medium Oil and tempera on plaster
  • Size 460 x 880 cm
  • Location Santa Maria delle Grazie

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