Last Supper History : Commission, Creation & Restoration
The Last Supper, a renowned Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece, stands as a pinnacle of Renaissance art, celebrated for its perspective, symbolism, and biblical narrative. Its worldwide recognition extends even to appearances in popular TV shows like South Park, The Simpsons, and House MD. Painted between 1495 and 1498 on a Milan monastery wall, it portrays Jesus and his apostles at their final meal before his arrest. Discover the captivating Last Supper history, igniting your curiosity and desire to witness it firsthand.
History of The Last Supper Explained
Commissioning of The Last Supper
Late 15th Century :
Leonardo da Vinci began painting The Last Supper in 1945 when he received a commission from the Duke of Milan. The Duke wanted to decorate the dining hall of the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery with a beautiful mural, and picked Leonardo Da Vinci for this. Using innovative techniques, Da Vinci brought this biblical scene to life.
Experimenting with Dry Plaster
16th - 18th Centuries:
Leonardo da Vinci's use of experimental techniques like tempera on dry plaster made the painting vulnerable to damage. Over the years, the painting faced damage due to neglect, war, and some not-so-great restoration attempts. Prolonged poor maintenance caused the paint to fade, crack, and peel.
Rise of Da Vinci
During the 19th century, a flood in the refectory caused mold to grow on the painting and caused a lot of damage to the painting. Thankfully appreciation for Da Vinci and the Renaissance period grew in this period and people started caring for The Last Supper. Many artists tried their hand at restoring the masterpiece, some more successful than others.
World War II Damage
During World War II The Last Supper faced the threat of damage and destruction. To keep the painting safe from bomb blasts the refectory wall was bricked up and covered with sandbags. The decision proved successful as the building housing the painting survived the war. The protective measures taken during the 20th century played a vital role in safeguarding this masterpiece.
Preserving The Last Supper
Conservationists are now dedicated to preserving The Last Supper. To ensure its longevity, they are using varied techniques to assess the painting's condition. With this knowledge, they develop targeted plans to protect and conserve the artwork. Through continuous research, innovation, and unwavering commitment conservationists are working towards safeguarding this extraordinary artwork for all future generations.
Damage to The Last Supper Across History
The Last Supper has faced numerous challenges and endured damage throughout its history:
World War II Bombings (20th Century): During World War II, the monastery housing The Last Supper was bombed, causing significant damage to the painting. Fortunately, it had been previously safeguarded with sandbags and scaffolding, which helped protect it.
Humidity and Neglect: Over the centuries, The Last Supper suffered from neglect and exposure to humidity, leading to severe deterioration. Layers of paint began to flake off, and the mural's vibrancy faded.
Restoration preserved The Last Supper as a cultural treasure, enabling admiration of da Vinci's masterpiece for generations.
Restoration of The Last Supper
Early Restoration Attempts
- Michelangelo Bellotti (1726): The first restoration attempt involved painter Michelangelo Bellotti, who filled damaged areas with tempera paint and covered the work with oil, obscuring much of the original painting.
- Giuseppe Mazza (1770): Hired priests attempted to restore the painting again. Giuseppe Mazza used an iron scraping tool to remove Bellotti's additions, repainted areas, and mistakenly washed the wall with a damaging solution, leading to his dismissal.
Stefano Barezzi's Intervention
In 1821, Stefano Barezzi made a misguided attempt to remove The Last Supper from the wall, mistaking it for a fresco. When he realized his mistake, he tried to repair the damage by gluing the paint back and adding colored stucco patches. Stefano Barezzi was again hired to work on The Last Supper between 1853 and 1855,. Through careful conservation efforts, Barezzi successfully cleaned and restored the artwork, revealing stunning painted lunettes above the painting.
- Luigi Cavenaghi (1908): Cavenaghi analyzed the painting's chemical components, revealing its use of tempera paint and multiple plaster layers.
- Oreste Silvestri (1924): Silvestri preserved the painting by applying new plaster to its edges.
- Mauro Pelliccioli (1947-1954): Pelliccioli conducted several restoration sessions, including a thorough cleaning, removal of shellac, and revealing original details like the Assisi design on the tablecloth and gold lettering on Judas's robe.
- Pinin Brambilla Barcilon (1976-1999): A comprehensive 21-year restoration process began in 1978, led by Pinin Brambilla Barcilon. It involved meticulous cleaning, reversing previous restoration attempts, and delicately filling damaged areas with watercolor paints. Controversy surrounded the process, with debates over the extent of original work retained.
- Preservation: The former refectory housing the painting has been transformed into a controlled room to protect it from environmental hazards. Visitors have limited viewing time to ensure preservation.
Book Your Tickets For The Last Supper
Frequently Asked Questions About The Last Supper History
The Last Supper is historically significant as a masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci, symbolizing the pinnacle of Renaissance art and innovation. It narrates the biblical moment of Jesus revealing his betrayal to his apostles during their final meal.
The Last Supper was created between 1495 and 1498, making it over 500 years old.
The Last Supper was painted during the Italian Renaissance, a period of significant artistic, cultural, and intellectual growth. It exemplifies the era's fascination with perspective, storytelling, and artistic innovation.
The Last Supper was painted by Leonardo da Vinci over a span of approximately three years, from 1495 to 1498.
The secrets of the painting lie in its intricate details and symbolism. The genius Leonardo da Vinci is speculated to have hidden secrets in the figure's gestures and emotional expressions.
The Last Supper faced damage during World War II bombings, leading to extensive restoration efforts. Its enduring fame and appearances in popular culture have also contributed to its history.
The Last Supper painting is famous for portraying the last meal shared by Jesus and his disciples, capturing their emotions, and conveying the narrative powerfully.
The cost of visiting The Last Supper may vary depending on the tour you book. Tickets are starting from 52 Euros, but prices are subject to change, please check our curated selection of experiences to know more.
Lesser-known facts include the artwork's appearances in popular TV shows and the extensive restoration efforts it has undergone to preserve its integrity.
Yes, guided tours explaining the history of The Last Supper are available.
One interesting fact about The Last Supper's history is that it is speculated to hold a lot of secrets of Christianity.
Visiting The Last Supper is highly recommended for art enthusiasts and those seeking to witness one of the world's most iconic masterpieces firsthand.