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The Last Supper 1495-1499

A work three years in the making, Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper remains one of the greatest masterpieces of all time. Even over 500 years after the painting was completed, this piece remains one of the most studied paintings in history, and The Last Supper is among the most sold of all Da Vinci posters.

In 1495 Leonardo Da Vinci was commissioned by Ludovico il Moro to paint a wall in the refectory of the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. The dining hall that Leonardo was to decorate with his painting was located in the building adjacent to the church. Leonardo was asked to create a portrait of Christ's last supper with his disciples, but more importantly, Leonardo chose to paint the very moment in which Christ announces that among the disciples lies a traitor. Through his brilliant brushwork, Leonardo manages to make the moment come to life with his personification of each of the twelve disciples, demonstrating their personal reactions to the announcement through facial expressions and movement.

Bread and WineHis 12 disciples, whom Leonardo has cleverly divided into groups of 3, surround Christ, figured in the center of the painting. Alone in the center, Christ's arms lay open, encompassing him into a triangular shape, expressive of the Divine Trinity, while the four groups around him are each boxed within their areas of the painting. Like most of Leonardo's other works, geometric shapes form the painting and aid in creating the painting's dialogue.

Unlike the other paintings that had been made of The Last Supper, Leonardo chose to sit Judas in with the rest of the disciples. In paintings by other artists, Judas was often found separated from the group, making his role of the deceiver obvious. Leonardo's inclusion of Judas with the other disciples is part of what makes the painting such a masterpiece, as his inclusion in the group forces the audience to scan the painting and each character in it, and it strengthens the notion that each of disciples was questioning of himself when Christ announced to his disciples "One of you will betray me."

The Last SupperWhile Da Vinci posters are abundant, The Last Supper is certainly amongst the most exceedingly popular, found in holy institutions and homes around the world, posters and reproductions seem to be a wonderful way of bringing Leonardo home. Da Vinci posters are timeless and long lasting, but unfortunately the same cannot be said about the actual Last Supper. Early in the 16th century, the painting started chipping away, and while many restorations have taken place to conserve the painting, today many will say that the painting has been repainted more so then restored.

When he began the painting, Leonardo decided not to use the conventional fresco methods as this required that the painting be completed quickly, and it required the painter to work continuously. This was not how Leonardo wanted to work; he wanted to take his time and to reproduce his vision without the limitation of time. Leonardo developed a new technique that he would use to complete the painting. Throughout the ages, Leonardo has been criticized for the poor technique, but The Last Supper will always remain as one of the greatest masterpieces of all time.

One of the most widely known works in Italy, a visit to the site isn't all that easy. Apparently, only 20 people can view the work at any given time, and each group is only allotted 15 minutes in the refectory. Anyone planning a visit to the site should certainly consider reserving tickets early on.

 


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