Last Supper

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.

Timeline of the Last Supper History

  • Late 15th Century: Da Vinci receives the commission for painting The Last Supper in Milan.
  • 1498: The painting is completed after several years of meticulous work.
  • 16th - 18th Centuries: It undergoes significant damage due to neglect and improper restoration attempts.
  • 19th Century: Interest in the painting grows, leading to its recognition as a significant artistic achievement.
  • 20th Century: The Last Supper gains global fame and is featured in popular culture. Suffers damage during World War II bombings; extensive restoration efforts commence.
  • 21st Century: The Last Supper remains a UNESCO World Heritage Site, drawing visitors worldwide.

History of The Last Supper Explained

The Last Supper History

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.

The Last Supper History

Experimenting with Dry Plaster

16th - 18th Century

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.

The Last Supper History

Rise of Da Vinci

19th Century

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.

The Last Supper History

World War II Damage

20th Century

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.

21st Century The last supper

Preserving The Last Supper

21st Century

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.

Creation of The Last Supper

When Leonardo da Vinci received the commission for The Last Supper, it was the first time he had ever worked on a piece of such immense size - fifteen feet high by almost twenty-nine feet wide. In addition, his experience in fresco painting, which is used to create wall murals of that size, was very limited. The traditional approach to fresco painting involves applying multiple layers of plaster then mixing pigment into wet plaster to create a permanent bond, and working swiftly with a predetermined plan.

However, this was not how Leonardo worked and for this reason, he chose a new technique. Being a perfectionist and a visionary artist he devised an innovative approach involving tempera or oil paint on two layers of dry preparatory ground. While this technique had its limitations and caused the pigments to not firmly adhere to the wall, it did result in a captivating painting initially. Unfortunately, over time, the artwork started to deteriorate and flake away after just a few years.

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.

Scientific Restoration

  • 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.

Secrets of The Last Supper

There are all sorts of rumors and theories about the secrets hidden within The Last Supper. From subtle gestures and expressions to hidden symbols and mysterious geometric patterns, these secrets add to the allure of the painting.

People often wonder about the secrets in the painting - with all sorts of theories about hidden messages in the figures' expressions. It's also famous for its powerful portrayal of Jesus' last meal with his disciples. And if you're keen to check it out yourself, there are guided tours available that can walk you through its history. Just note that the cost to visit can vary depending on the tour you book. And if you're an art enthusiast, it's definitely worth a visit!

Fun Fact: The painting has several instances of the number three, which some say represents the Holy Trinity. The Apostles are grouped in threes, there are three windows in the background, and Jesus himself is shaped like a triangle. Jesus is also apparently making a V sign with his right hand. Some believe this is a symbol of peace or the divine feminine.

The Last Supper Today

The Last Supper is one of the world's most renowned masterpieces and is a testament to Leonardo’s artistic genius and the Renaissance era. It is a symbol of Milan's cultural heritage. This painting is a captivating portrayal of the biblical scene of Jesus with his apostles and is an absolute must for art enthusiasts and history aficionados to experience the profound impact firsthand.  

Book Your Tickets For The Last Supper

Da Vinci's Last Supper Skip-the-Line Guided Tour
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Milan: City Center and Last Supper Guided Tour
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Milan: City Walking Tour with Milan Cathedral & Last Supper Guided tour
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Milan in a Day: Guided Tour of Downtown, Last Supper, Milan Cathedral & Duomo Museum Pass
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Frequently Asked Questions About The Last Supper History

What is the historical significance of the Last Supper?

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.

How old is The Last Supper?

The Last Supper was created between 1495 and 1498, making it over 500 years old.

What is the historical context in which the Last Supper was created?

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.

How many years did it take to make The Last Supper?

The Last Supper was painted by Leonardo da Vinci over a span of approximately three years, from 1495 to 1498.

What are the secrets hidden in The Last Supper?

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.

What events or incidents have shaped the history of the Last Supper?

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.

What is The Last Supper painting famous for?

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.

How much does it cost to visit The Last Supper?

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.

What are some lesser-known historical facts or anecdotes about the Last Supper?

Lesser-known facts include the artwork's appearances in popular TV shows and the extensive restoration efforts it has undergone to preserve its integrity.

Are there guided tours explaining The Last Supper’s history?

Yes, guided tours explaining the history of The Last Supper are available.

What is the most interesting fact about The Last Supper’s history?

One interesting fact about The Last Supper's history is that it is speculated to hold a lot of secrets of Christianity.

Is it worth visiting The Last Supper?

Visiting The Last Supper is highly recommended for art enthusiasts and those seeking to witness one of the world's most iconic masterpieces firsthand.

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