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10 facts you might not know about The Last Supper - by Leonardo Da Vinci

10 facts you might not know about The Last Supper - by Leonardo Da Vinci

1. Who's who in "The Last Supper"


2. The secret of "The Last Supper"

The Last Supper is a very popular religious scene painted by many celebrated artists. Unlike artists before and after him, Leonardo da Vinci chose not to put halos on Jusus Christ. Many art historians believe that Leonardo da Vinci believe in nature, not in God. To Leonardo, nature is God, so he treated every character in the fresco as common people.

3. "Last Supper" is a failed experiment

Unlike traditional frescoes, which Renaissance masters painted on wet plaster walls, da Vinci experimented with tempura paint on a dry, sealed plaster wall in the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery in Milan, Italy. The experiment proved unsuccessful, however, because the paint did not adhere properly and began to flake away only a few decades after the work was finished.

4. The spilled salt is symbolic

Speculations about symbolism in the artwork are plentiful. For example, many scholars have discussed the meaning of the spilled salt container near Judas's elbow. Spilled salt could symbolize bad luck, loss, religion, or Jesus as salt of the earth.

5. Eel or herring?

Scholars have also remarked on da Vinci's choice of food. They dispute whether the fish on the table is herring or eel since each carries its own symbolic meaning. In Italian, the word for eel is "aringa." The similar word, "arringa," means to indoctrinate. In northern Italian dialect, the word for herring is "renga," which also describes someone who denies religion. This would fit with Jesus' biblical prediction that his apostle Peter would deny knowing him.

6. Da Vinci used a hammer and nail to help him to achieve the one-point perspective

What makes the masterpiece so striking is the perspective from which it's painted, which seems to invite the viewer to step right into the dramatic scene. To achieve this illusion, da Vinci hammered a nail into the wall, then tied string to it to make marks that helped guide his hand in creating the painting's angles.

7. The existing mural is not 100% da Vinci's work

At the end of the 20th century, restorer Panin Brambilla Barcilon and his crew relied on microscopic photographs, core samples, infrared reflectoscopy and sonar to remove the added layers of paint and restore the original as accurately as possible. Critics maintain that only a fraction of the painting that exists today is the work of Leonardo da Vinci.

8. Three early copies of the original exist

Three of da Vinci's students, including Giampietrino, made copies of his painting early in the 16th century. Giampietrino did a full-scale copy that is now in London's Royal Academy of Arts. This oil painting on canvas was the primary resource for the latest restoration of the work. The second copy by Andrea Solari is in the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Belgium while the third copy by Cesare da Sesto is in the Church of Saint Ambrogio in Switzerland.

The Last Supper Copy - by Giampietrino

9. The painting is also a musical score

According to Italian musician Giovanni Maria Pala, da Vinci incorporated musical notes in "The Last Supper." In 2007, Pala created a 40-second melody from the notes that were allegedly hidden in the scene.

10. The painting has been a victim of neglect and abuse

In 1652, monastery residents cut a new door in the wall of the deteriorating painting, which removed a chunk of the artwork showing the feet of Jesus. Late in the 18th century, Napoleon Bonaparte's soldiers turned the area into a stable and further damaged the wall with projectiles. During World War II, the Nazis bombed the monastery, reducing surrounding walls to rubble.


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