Friday, March 26, 2010

Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper

This piece was done in the monk's dining room at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Leonardo decided to experiment with the paints he used and, unfortunately, it caused the painting to crack roughly twenty years after it was completed. This wasn't the only threat to the painting as a bomb was dropped on the monastery in 1943 and it destroyed the roof and the wall to the right of the painting. The painting miraculously survived.

Other paintings of the last supper had been made prior to Leonardo's, but his was vastly different than the others. In others, each of the 12 apostles were painted as individual figures, but Leonardo decided to paint them in compositional groups of three. This allowed the figure of Christ to be framed in the center of the painting as the only single figure. These groups of three also serve another purpose as they represent the Holy Trinity along with the three rectangular windows in the background.

One of the most distinctive differences between Leonardo's Last Supper and other paintings of the last supper is that Judas is sitting on the same side of the table as everyone else. In other pieces Judas is shown sitting on the opposite side of the table. Leonardo does single Judas out as being the only figure that is moving away from Christ, as all other figures are moving in towards him.

The story of this painting is that Christ has just announced that one of the apostles will betray him. The figures of the apostles are all painted with humanistic reactions to Christ's statement. You can see that the apostles are shocked by his statement and all but one are assuring him that they will not be the betrayer. Only Judas is shown to shy away while clutching his bag of blood money.

Kren, Emil, Marx, Daniel. “Web Gallery of Art”. March 30, 2010

Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History: Fourteenth to Seventeenth Century Art 4. 5 vols.
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2009.

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