Wednesday, April 8, 2009
The Last Supper by Leonardo DaVinci
Another famous DaVinci painting. But how could I not with it being Holy Thursday.
First of all, this is not a painting with secret messages, Mary Magdelene is not sitting next to Jesus, Peter is not threatening anyone with a knife. For some reason people like to imagine all sorts of things with regard to Leonardo's paintings, especially this one. Dan Brown didn't help the situation with his "Da Vinci Code".
"The Last Supper" was painted between 1495-1498.It measures 15ft by 29ft and covers the back wall of the dining hall at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. It was painted for Leonardo's patron Duke Ludovico Sforza and his duchess Beatrice d'Este.
The scene depicts the scene of the first Eucharist at the moment when Jesus has just announced that one of the twelve will betray Him. Each of the apostle have obvious reactions. You can almost hear them. "Do you hear what he just said?" "No one here would do such a thing!" Peter's temper is in play and he is swinging the knife around in his anger.
The apostles are seated in groups of three. Starting from the left, the apostles in the first group are Bartholomew, James the Minor, and Andrew. Next we have Judas, Peter, and John. Judas seems to be holding a small bag (30 pieces of silver?) and his face is shadowy. Peter looks furious. It is the figure of John,because he seems effeminate, that some claim is actually Mary Magdelene. But John was usually painted in an effeminate way by most artists of the period because of his youth .Besides if that is Mary Magdelene, where is John? It would make no sense for Leonardo to leave out John.
Christ is in the center, His calmness keeps things from getting out of hand.
Thomas, James the Major, and Philip are the next group. Matthew, Thaddeus, and Simon at the right end.
As you can see, the painting is not in the best condition. This is because Leonardo experimented with the paints. The preferred method of fresco painting at the time was tempera on wet plaster. Leonardo decided to try using dry plaster. It resulted in a more varied palette but it turned out not to be very durable.
Detail from Castagno's "Last Supper" John is on the right, sleeping.
El Greco's "Last Supper"