To see Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper in Milan, advance reservations are mandatory so book far in advance

Mandatory Advance Reservations
For Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper in Milan

Browse unique lodgings, hand-picked for you by In Italy Online

Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie 2
Along with Michelangelo's David, this is undoubtedly one of the most famous art works in Italy. Everyone has heard that it was recently restored and finally unveiled after years and years during which the public was not allowed to see it. But did you know why Leonardo painted this particular subject? Did you know that it is one of the most popular subjects and that almost every Renaissance painter worth his salt has a cenacolo (as they are called in Italian) under his belt? The setting of this masterpiece may give you your best clue, for it is hanging on the wall of the refectory in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. What is a refectory? Why, it is the large hall where monks and nuns take their meals. Traditionally, the good brothers and sisters were supposed to talk as little as possible during their repasts, and so it was very common to give them inspirational art to contemplate as they chewed. What better subject for a refectory than the most famous meal in the Bible? In his best-seller The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown speculates about why the artist depicted his cenacolo the way he did -- but we wager you already know all about that!

Leonardo painted this jewel between 1495 and 1497. As great an artist as he was, Da Vinci (a nickname which means "from the town of Vinci") was not trained in the art of fresco, and so instead of putting the greatest emphasis on the correct techniques and materials, he concentrated on the artistic effect he wanted to achieve, relying on oil and egg tempera, a combination which never really melded with the dry gesso foundation. Over the years, the colors faded, spotted and even fell to the ground. It didn't help, either, that the good monks later decided to cut a doorway right into a corner of the scene! In the 20th century, Leonardo's Last Supper became as famous for its pitiful state of disrepair as for its exquisite artistic rendering.

Today the fresco has been brilliantly restored, and we can see what all the fuss was about. Leonardo's painting stands out from so many others because of the intense and perspicacious way that he depicted the psyches of his subjects. He chose to portray them just at the moment when Christ is telling them there is a traitor amongst them, but before He singles out the culprit. Careful observation shows how each of the men reacts, some with shock, others with fear, others with anger. The only person in the room whose face seems utterly calm is Christ himself. It is said that Leonardo was able to achieve these subtleties thanks to the countless hours he had spent studying anatomy. Standing in front of the fresco, aided by the fact that the room in the picture is the refectory itself, and that the artist used the actual shape of the real walls to accentuate the dynamics of his artificial scene, one is able to understand why Leonardo Da Vinci is considered one of the greatest artists of all times.

Two kilometers away from the "Last Supper," easily reached by subway, Brera Art Gallery is one of Italy's finest. It offers an exceptional collection of Lombard and Venetian masters, including Lorenzo Lotto's Pietà, Gentile Bellini's St. Mark Preaching in Alexandria, Mantegna's Virgin and the Cherubs and Dead Christ, Titian's St. Jerome, and Giovanni Bellini's Pietà. There is also a Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints and Angels and the Kneeling Duke of Urbino in Armor by Piero della Francesca, a Christ by Bramante, a Wedding of the Madonna by Raphael, and a Last Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio.


Browse unique lodgings, hand-picked for you by In Italy Online