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.|