LEONARDO da Vinci
(b. 1452, Vinci, d. 1519, Cloux, near Amboise)
The Last Supper1498
Mixed technique, 460 x 880 cm
Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan
The most celebrated Last Supper was painted by Leonardo da Vinci around 1494-98 in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. The real dining room appears to be continued in the perspectivally painted one, but on a higher level: the prior's table is upstaged by that of Christ and the apostles above. Christ and the apostles seem to have taken their place in the monk's dining hall in Milan, as it were. The emphatic gestures of the larger-than-life-size, heroic figures would have contrasted once with the quiet, controlled meal of the monks. A sublime, sacred drama overshadowed the worldly meal and focused the brothers' attention religious meditation. Leonardo depicted a specific moment of the Last Supper: Christ has just announced that he will be betrayed by one of the disciples, and the community of apostles reacts with agitation and questioning. The brothers found here a painted exemplar for their explorations of their own conscience; Judas's offence warned them not to betray the monastic community and its regulations.