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03-31-2018 - Good Friday: The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci

Good Friday

The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci

One of history's most influential works of art. Painted in 1495, it is Leonardo's visual interpretation of an event chronicled in all four of the Gospels. Jesus gathered his disciples together to eat, tell them he knew what was coming and wash their feet (a gesture symbolizing that all were equal under the eyes of the Lord). As they ate and drank together, Jesus gave them explicit instructions on how to eat and drink in the future, in remembrance of him. It was the first celebration of the Eucharist.

The Last Supper depicts the next few seconds in this story after Christ dropped the bomb shell that one disciple would betray him before sunrise. all twelve disciples reacted to the news with different degrees of horror, anger and shock.

Leonardo had never worked on such a large painting and had no experience in the standard mural medium of fresco. The painting was made using experimental pigments directly on the dry plaster wall and unlike frescos, where the pigments are mixed with the wet plaster, it has not stood the test of time well. Even before it was finished there were problems with the paint flaking from the wall and Leonardo had to repair it. Over the years it has crumbled, been vandalized bombed and restored. Today we are probably looking at very little of the original.

Much of the recent interest in the painting has centered on the details hidden within the painting, but in directing attention to these 'hidden' details, most people miss the incredible sense of perspective the work displays. The sharp angling of the walls within the picture, which lead back to the seemingly distant back wall of the room and the windows that show the hills and sky beyond. The type of day shown through these windows adds to the feeling of serenity that rests in the center of the piece, around the figure of Christ.

The existing mural is not 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.

Three early copies of the original exist.

Three of da Vinci's students 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.

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.


Jesus did miraculous things throughout his lifetime, but no one knew (besides Jesus) that this would be his last supper on earth. He chose a simple meal for his last meal. This supper was when the First Eucharist occurred. What a thought: The First Eucharist at The Last Supper. The bread represents the Body of Christ. The wine, The Blood of Christ.

During the meal, Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed. Guess what happened? Jesus said that someone would betray him that night. This led to a mini-conspiracy theory amongst his disciples. Turned out Jesus knew exactly that it would be Judas who would betray him.

After supper, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to ask God not to go through with His crucifixion but did still offer himself by saying, "Thy will be done."

When Jesus went to the garden to pray, He asked his disciples to stay awake and keep watch. They fell asleep, so Jesus yelled at them. He knew all his disciples would abandon him once he was arrested. Jesus would go to the cross to die alone. His disciples, his closest friends, upon whom he counted to win the world, would desert him in his moment of crisis...

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