Some artworks come and go while other pieces of art dig up spaces in the heart of the audience and stay there perennially. The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci is a breathtakingly exceptional painting that has beautifully aged like wine over the years.
Leonardo Da Vinci was a much revered Italian artist whose artistic prowess was off the charts and still remains unchallenged. The Last Supper also became rampantly famous for it beautifully illustrates a staggering historic event in Catholic history.
Other than the aesthetically pleasing traits attributed to this masterpiece, it has a lot of intriguing facts hidden behind all that beauty. So, let’s scrape off layers from this painting to unearth some undiscovered and unnoticed details to revel in it even more.
Captures the expressions of the disciples
This painting doesn’t just capture the very last supper of Jesus with his disciples before he is crucified but actually, a very climactic moment. Rather than just recording this historic event on canvas, Da Vinci went the extra mile by illustrating the reactions of the disciples after Jesus reveals that one of them will betray him.
The consequent shock and horror are crystal clear from the facial expressions of the disciples. This masterpiece is also moments before the birth of the First Eucharist. Lastly, the painting also depicts Jesus serving bread and wine. The bread was symbolic of Jesus’ own body torn down after the crucifixion and the wine stood for his blood, both of which become integral parts of the Christian faith.
The Last Supper is Neither a Museum Painting Not a Fresco
The painting firstly is majestic, about 15 feet by 29 feet, and even though it is the world’s most lauded painting, it doesn’t adorn any museum. This is so as it has a permanent address in Milan where it is literally glued to a wall. The master Italian artists painted this beauty directly on the wall of the dining hall of the Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie in 1495.
While it was painted on a wall, it is not a fresco either as fresco is painted on wet plaster. Da Vinci repudiated this technique as he wanted his artwork to have a grandiose that a fresco didn’t allow. Also, a fresco commands the artists to finish the work hurriedly before the plaster dries off, carelessness Da Vinci didn’t want to do with this painting.
A New Technique was born
Da Vinci had a few tricks up his sleeve that he unleashed onto the dining hall wall of the Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie. He was a fine perfectionist and wanted every detail of his painting to be drenched with beauty and grace.
This is why he invented his own technique other than that of a fresco or a mural. For this, the wall was coated with a strong base of material that would protect it against moisture. Using tempera paints on stone, he stained that brick wall with utmost concentration and precision.
His use of perspective has been meticulously studied and researched over the years. This is so as his successful exploitation of perspective allows the onlooker to almost step into the painting, providing an illusionistic effect.
He dug a hole into which the nail was driven and it was smartly placed right at the temple of Jesus and this location becomes a focal point in The Last Supper. Also, he dug a nail into the brick wall and then, suspended a string to it, making markings which helped his hand to surf through the panting easily.
Judas Reflects a Real Criminal
The disciples depicted in Da Vinci’s The Last Supper are said to be based on real-life models. But, when it came to painting the face of Judas, the disciples that betrays Jesus, Da Vinci looked at real criminals for inspiration.
He searched the jails of Milan to look for the perfect criminal from whom he could derive the nuances of Judas’ flabbergasted face in the painting. For reference, Judas is the one hoarding a bag of silver, wrapped in a blue and red robe.
The Food Holds Meaning Too
The Last Supper showcases a variety of food laid down on the table for the Apostles. It’s often said that the food items also hold intrinsic meaning and deeply embedded symbols in them. The spilled salt is known to represent Judas’ betrayal or seen as bad luck in being chosen as the one who betrays Jesus.
The fish always invokes many symbols like if it is an eel, it can represent indoctrination and thereby faith in the Almighty Jesus. On the other hand, if the fish is herring, it could stand for the no believer of religion who denies its existence and virtue. The bread dipped in wine that Jesus serves stands for his battered body oozing with blood after the crucifixion.
The Bottom Line
The Last Supper is a classic representation of Christian iconography, exceptionally painted with vigor and technical prowess to wow the onlooker in mere seconds. Da Vinci as a High Renaissance Italian art was widely known for his craft which was often imbued with multifarious meticulous details. Similarly, this masterpiece picture of the last supper also reeks of such rich details along with unconventional techniques which ultimately made it a staggeringly wondrous sight to behold.