(b. 1423, Castagno, d. 1457, Firenze)

Last Supper

Fresco, 453 x 975 cm
Sant'Apollonia, Florence

One of Andrea del Castagno's most famous works is the Last Supper he painted below the stories from Christ's Passion. Until quite recently the Last Supper appeared to be painted in much darker colours than the scenes directly above it; the fact had given rise to many animated debates between scholars concerning the dating of the fresco. But after the latest cleaning (1977-79) the colour and tonal contrast between the two levels has disappeared, and the colours of the Last Supper have been restored to their original beauty.

All scholars agree in praising the sobre architectural structure of the room where the scene of the Last Supper is taking place: a room in the austere style of Alberti, with the lavish coloured marble panels functioning as a backdrop to the heavy and solemn scene of the banquet. Notice also the beauty of some of the minor details, such as the gold highlights in some of the characters' hair or the haloes depicted in perfect perspective. The other extraordinary element of this fresco is the remarkable balance of gestures and expressions, particularly in the group of figures in the centre of the composition, where the innocent sleep of St John to the left of Jesus is contrasted to the tense, rigid figure of Judas sitting opposite.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 8 minutes):
Johann Sebastian Bach: St. Matthew Passion BWV 244 (excerpts)