Cultural Italy Blog: Art, Coffee & Love

Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” in Milan

Who is the world’s foremost polymath and artist without any precedent in recorded history? And which among his artworks is the most intriguing one? We all know it is Leonardo Da Vinci. And many of us have heard of his mysterious “The Last Supper” painted in 1498. What is interesting, however, is that Leonardo’s “Cenacolo” (the original title), representing the last meal shared by Jesus with his disciples before his capture and death, is perhaps the most reproduced work of art ever. It counts an immeasurable number of copies made in every medium on every continent. And yet, where to find the original one? In Milan. But be careful, this masterpiece shrouded in mystery is not easy to see.

If you are planning to go to Milan, make sure to reserve your visit to “The Last Supper” in advance. There are too many curious who want to see the work. Most probably you will have to wait for some months before the appointment. Once your visit is scheduled, however, don’t be late. You will have only 15 minutes and not a second more to enjoy the huge mural measuring about 460 cm × 880 cm (180 in × 350 in).

Painted for the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, located in the historical center of Milan and included in the UNESCO World Heritage sites list, “The Last Supper” is a very special work. Instead of using the reliable technique of fresco, Leonardo applied tempera over a ground that was mainly gesso. In other words, “The Last Supper” was depicted on a dry wall rather than on a wet plaster. That means it has been easy prey for mold and for flaking, and therefore for rapid decay.

A number of restoration works (the last being completed in 1999) constantly attempt to maintain the subtle Leonardo’s drawing. Very little in fact of the original painting remains today. However, despite everything, Leonardo’s priceless masterpiece is still there and still resisting the ruthless time and the aggressive environment. And what is more, and surprisingly enough, the weakening and vanishing nature of this delicate drawing makes this piece even more suggestive and infinitely intriguing, and definitely worth a visit.

Maria Novozhilova


twitter: @NovozhilovaM

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