LEONARDO da Vinci
(b. 1452, Vinci, d. 1519, Cloux, near Amboise)
Head of St John the Evangelist-
Pencil, black chalk, paste, and watercolour, 562 x 432 mm
Musées de Strasbourg, Strasbourg
Leonardo's Last Supper in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan generated many copies. Given the disintegrated state of the mural, the earliest of these copies serve as valuable historical documents, preserving long vanished or subsequently repainted details of the original. The monumental chalk heads of Christ and the apostles shown here are not preparatory studies by Leonardo, as once believed, but later copies. However, it is not known whether they are copies after the painting or after the lost preparatory drawings.