HOLY MARY OF GRACE - THE LAST SUPPER, The Last Supper - The Painting

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Audio File length: 2.17
English Language: English

The Last Supper's subject is obviously very suitable for a refectory, that is, for a convent's dining room, but it is also one of the most popular works of art in the history of painting. When he was growing up in Florence, Leonardo da Vinci certainly must have seen many Last Suppers painted by the Tuscan masters of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

With this work in Milan, he had the opportunity to challenge them all. Firstly, he decided to place the famous scene narrated in the Gospels within a sort of frame. This frame most likely served to celebrate the magnificence of the Sforza ducal family, who had commissioned the work.


The episode of the Last Supper is one of Christian religion's most important moments.

On the evening of Holy Thursday, shortly before being captured and taken to be tortured, Christ met with the Twelve Apostles in a large hall for the Paschal banquet and performed certain rites which established the sacrament of the Eucharist, or the offering of body and blood in the form of consecrated bread and wine. Leonardo chose to illustrate the decidedly most dramatic moment of the supper, which is when Christ says the phrase, "One of you will betray me", and the apostles react in different ways, expressing dismay, disbelief, anguish, bewilderment, sadness, fear, and resignation.


As you can see, Leonardo painted all thirteen figures along the same side of a rectangular table, with the apostles grouped into four groups of three. This layout puts even more emphasis on the central figure of Christ, isolated in a noble and impassive calm.


Before leaving the room, don't forget to look at the wall opposite the Last Supper: at the end of the Crucifixion scene you can see the profiles of Ludovico il Moro, his wife Beatrice d'Este and their two children. These members of the ducal family were perhaps added later by Leonardo himself, but have now almost entirely vanished.


FUN FACT: if you look closely, you'll note that the characters of the Last Supper are painted as if someone was watching them from a distance in a very long room. Well yes, because that room looks just as long as the refectory where the painting is located!

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