Fine Art/Da Vinci's Last Supper
I'm a fellow Expert (but in Music) and was hoping to take advantage of this amazing website to help me with something that has been puzzling me for days.
I had a discussion with some friends about Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper and specifically about the circumstances surrounding its painting. I would like to know everything about how it was painted and why it took such a long time to complete. I understand that it's painted on a wall at the Santa Maria in Milan so that poses extra challenges that a canvas doesn't.
My main focus is really to do with the model for Jesus which apparently was the same man used for Judas a few years on. Can you please point me in the right direction to the full story on this. I did a search on this online didn't find more than what I've given you above.
I wonder why did Da Vinci use the same guy, or maybe he did not know? Were there other problems in the painting of this masterpiece that could have affected it? etc..
Any input will be more than appreciated. Thanks for your help!
It is always nice to receive a question from a fellow expert.
It was painted in the period from 1495-1998, however Leonardo did not work on it consistently. According to Giorgio Vasari, Leonardo painted every person beside from Jesus and Judas quite quickly. The problem was that he executed the work with so much quality that when it was time to paint Jesus he didn't knew what extra he could do to make sure that he would seem divine. The same goes for Judas, how was it possible to paint the man that betrayed Jesus. It is said that Leonardo returned to Florence when he got stuck due to the problems mentioned above. It is said that when the Prior Santa Maria delle Grazie asked him to come and finish the work, Leonardo replied that the priors face could be used for Judas.
It ended up with these two models:
Judas: A prisoner from a dungeon in Rome.
Jesus: A man from Milan who was only 19 years old. Leonardo wanted a man with clear skin and a face with no signs of sins.
About the technique:
Leonardo painted The Last Supper on a dry wall rather than on wet plaster, so it is not a true fresco. Because a fresco cannot be modified as the artist works, Leonardo instead chose to seal the stone wall with a layer of pitch, gesso and mastic, then paint onto the sealing layer with tempera. Because of the method used, the piece has not withstood time very well – within several years of completion it already began showing signs of deterioration.
I hope you could use the answers even though they might not answer all your questions.
Best Regards, Søren