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Leonardo di Vinci’s mural of the Last Supper was painted on the wall in the refectory of the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan between 1495 and 1498. Leonardo used an experimental technique- applying tempera paint and mixed media directly to the stone wall. This technique attributed to the severe deterioration that occurred to the painting within di Vinci’s own lifetime. The work was, nevertheless, highly admired and there were many attempts made to restore it throughout the centuries. In 1943, a bomb fell on the church, but the iron framework of the refectory protected the wall from utter destruction. This color photograph reproduction shows the Last Supper as it appears today, after extensive modern conservation work.


This work of art is by far the most famous representation of the Last Supper and has been analyzed in countless sources. It is well documented that Leonardo di Vinci broke from the composition present in works of his predecessors, which had depicted the apostles around a table (thus showing certain apostles from behind) and which depict the gestures described in the Gospels to identify Judas as Christ’s betrayer. According to Prof. Ludwig H. Heydenreich in his book Leonardo: The Last Supper, Leonardo’s preliminary drawings exhibited the “traditional” composition, but that later, di Vinci became inspired to depict the moment before Christ identified Judas. His aim was to capture the emotions of each of the apostles in that dramatic moment. Here, di Vinci has group the apostles in threes with Jesus at the center, which creates an image of a triangle. There are three windows behind Christ, through which we can see a wide landscape. Each apostle can be identified by specific attributes. Judas is at the front of the group to Christ’s left. He reaches toward a plate beside Christ (as recounted in Matthew 26) and he clutches a purse of money—the reward for his betrayal.


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: