The Last Supper (Leonardo da Vinci, 1498)

The Last Supper - Leonardo da Vinci - 1495

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Artwork Information

TitleThe Last Supper
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
Dimensions460 x 880 cm
Art MovementHigh Renaissance
Current LocationChurch Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy
Location Created Milan, Italy
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About The Last Supper

The Last Supper is one of the most famous paintings in the world. The mural painting was made by Leonardo da Vinci between 1495-1498. The painting belongs to the Italian High Renaissance period. Currently, the painting is at the refectory of Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. Leonardo made The Last Supper in Tempera on gesso, pitch and mastic.

What is depicted in The Last Supper?

The painting depicts Christ’s Last Supper with his twelve apostles. The scene depicts the moment when Jesus announces the upcoming betrayal of one of his apostles. Jesus is shown seated at the centre of the dining table, while among the twelve depicted apostles, six on both sides each. The detailed reactions of the apostles are carefully captured in the painting. At the same time, the background of the painting elucidates the interiors of a church.

Artwork Analysis – The Last Supper

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci is a remarkable example of a single-point perspective during the Renaissance. The varied reactions of the apostles add tension to the subject of the painting. The artist has done justice to the subject of Last Supper which indeed is a moment of shock. Mixed emotions of the apostles, some shocked, some angry, some curious while some are shown interacting with each other after the announcement.

The entire scene is depicted in a large hall with windows at the rear end of the room. With the supper table in the front centre of the painting, the subjects or apostles sit on the table facing the spectator. Jesus sits at the centre with a melancholic yet poised expression. On the left of Jesus, the painting depicts two groups: the extreme left comprises Bartholomew, James and Andrew who appear in a state of shock or surprise.  While the other one, comprising John, Judas and Peter, move in different movement and expressive essences. In the group closer to Jesus, Judas is slightly taken aback and is shown as withdrawn and staring at Jesus. The other apostle Peter is depicted leaning towards John to whisper with his hand on John’s shoulder. As Judas is the one to betray, subtle hints are perhaps given in the painting with the gesture of his, and the way he clutches his bag in hand. Similarly, the right side is equally divided into two groups with three apostles in each group. On the extreme right, Jude Thaddeus and, Matthew consult Simon, enquiring about the possible explanation for the announcement. Unaware of any answers, Simon tends to look away from the situation. In the group closer to Jesus on the right side, Thomas, James the Greater and Philip are depicted. Thomas is seen raising his index finger in exclamation and in difficulty believing the announcement. James the Greater is shown upset and shocked with his arms raised in the air. Meanwhile, Philip is depicted possibly with an inquisitive mind to know the reason behind this revelation.

The luminous atmosphere adds a mysterious sense to the painting. Leonardo’s paintings do retain this character of mystery, especially with the help of the sfumato technique. The painting shows High Renaissance characteristics at its best, with human figures in ideal proportions, central composition and the illusion of depth. The Last Supper has been subjected to concern in several literary and film adaptations. Dan Brown’s book Da Vinci Code seeks symbolism and hints in the painting to decode the event of the betrayal. The book suggests that the character on the right of Jesus could be Mary Magdalene! However, we truly are not aware if it was real or fictional because the text does not mention so!

Related works

The Last Supper has been a popular as well as a common event of the painting by several noted Renaissance and later painters. The Last Supper by Fra Angelico in, dated 1441,  and Jacopo Tinnterroto mad in 1592-94, are visually related to the one by Leonardo.  1441. Both painters belong to the early Renaissance phase. Due to patronisation from the church, Christian themes have been central to artists’ works in Europe for many centuries. And the Last Supper, being a suspense-oriented event, had garnered immense interest between the artists as well as the Catholic audience.

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