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Text Box: Leonardo da VincióThe Last Supper

Leonardo da Vinciís The Last Supper was completed in 1497 and is painted using oil-tempura mix on a wall in the dining hall at the Refectory, S. Maria delle Grazie, Milan.


The painting was commissioned by† Duke Ludovico Sforza and his duchess Beatrice d'Este. It depicts the final meal Jesus shares with his apostles when he reveals that one will betray him as told by Gospel of John 13:21


The viewer can see the apostles have reacted with horror at such a revelation. Judas is included, though is placed in shadow. Several references to the Christian holy trinity are seen in The Last Supper with the groupings of apostles into three, the three windows at the back and the triangular form of Jesus in the centre.


There are two early copies of Da Vinciís The Last Supper known to exist, most probably the work of Leonardo's assistant. The copies are almost the size of the original, and have lasted over time with a great deal of detail.


Da Vinciís The Last Supper is a mural, not a Fresco. Frescos are painted on wet plaster so the image is locked into the plaster when it dries. It is actually unfortunate that Da Vinci didnít use this method, as his experimentation with an oil-tempura mix has meant that the image deteriorated quickly over time. At one point much of the painting was unrecognisable. In the late 1970ís a major effort was undertaken to restore the piece. When Da Vinciís The Last Supper was finally unveiled in 1999 there was much consternation in some quarters as to the dramatic change in the colours. The restoration had taken 21 years. Visitors can now view this important artwork, although booking is essential and viewing time is limited.


This work of Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most recognised and talked about worldwide. The Last Supper has become over time part of pop culture, parodied numerous times in programs such as MASH, The Simpsons, Futurama and South Park.


Most recently it has been a modern work of fiction which has once again drawn attention to Leonardo da Vinciís The Last Supper. The success of Dan Brownís novel The Da Vinci Code. has drawn people into a web of mystery and intrigue regarding secret messages and symbolism that Da Vinci supposedly hid within this work. Messages which are supposed to point to the nature of the Holy Grail and its being a human vessel carrying Jesusí offspring rather than physical vessel to carry wine.


Much has been made of Dan Brownís The Da Vinci Code creating a great buzz around Da Vinciís The Last Supper. Without speculating on all of this discussion it must be remembered that Dan Brownís The Da Vinci Code is a work of fiction written in the 20th century which chooses to exploit the hundreds of years of speculation and mystery surrounding Da Vinciís The Last Supper. In truth the work itself needs no such publicity. It is an artwork which on its own merit is famous, not because of propaganda or speculation but because of the artist who created itóthe master Leonardo da Vinci.


All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.óLeonardo da Vinci