Let your escort bring you to The Last Supper which is the most famous, admired, studied, celebrated, well known and most recognizable Renaissance masterpiece the world has ever known; and also the most copied for over 500 years. The painting is located in the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan – its original place – and covers an end wall of the dining room in the referctory of the Dominican Convent.
Santa Maria delle Grazie is an important monument included in the Unesco World Heritage sites list and a wonderful example of the Renaissance architecture which was a magnificent historical period for the metropolis: it was a prosperous cultural centre as the most important artists, musicians, poets, philosophers and their escorts resided in Milan. The construction of the complex, including the Church and Convent, was ordered by the Duke Francesco I Sforza and commissioned to the architect Solari in 1463: the work took decades and it was completed after 1490.
After Francesco, his successor Ludovico il Moro wanted to enlarge and renovate the apse and the tribune: the work was commissioned at the end of the 15th century to the architect Donato Bramante who was one of the masters of the Renaissance and in service to the Duchy.
In 1543 the Chapel of Holy Crown – situated on the right of the nave – hosted the famous painting the Titian but unfortunately French troops took it in 1797 and today is in the Museum of Louvre.
Leonardo Da Vinci (15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519) known as the “Renaissance Man” is considered from many historians an Universal Genius, a mysterious person and especially one of the most talented individuals ever to have lived in our history whose areas of interest are: invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, history, cartography.
The Last Supper work was commissioned by Duke Ludovico Sforza as part of a plan of renovations to the church Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan and it is presumed to have been started around 1495–96: the beginning date is not certain, as the archives of the convent for the period have been destroyed, and it was completed around 1498. Leonardo didn’t work on it continuously but at the end he finally reached the glory he wanted in his own lifetime creating what it called “work of fame”: the painting increased his reputation becaming immediately famous all over Europe and being visited by the elite men of that time and the respective escorts.
The painting measures 460 cm × 880 cm and represents the image of the Last Supper of Jesus with his apostles in particular capturing the moment just after Christ tells that one of them will betray him. Leonardo wanted to fix the psychological reactions and the consternation that occurred among the Twelve Disciples: each of them has a different reaction - unique and memorable - expressing what he called the “motion of the mind”. The Genius had a different opinion about the classical interpretation of the composition so that he put Jesus in the centre of the Apostles and created four groups of three on both sides of Christ.
The Last Supper is not a “fresco”: Leonardo abandoned the traditional method of fresco painting and invented a new method consisting to add tempera and oil to already dry plaster. This technique was not a success about longevity as the Masterpiece began to deteriorate almost immediately suffering changes in temperature, moisture and humidity more than others frescoes masterpieces, so that it faced numerous restorations.
The complex was severely damaged during Second World War but it was immediately submitted to the necessary restoration and renovation by the Dominican Fathers in Milan who continuosly give their contribute to safeguard this historical site.
The Last Supper has many conservation problems because of Leonardo’s technique and the pollution due to excessive visitation: the room is constantly monitored to guarantee that the atmospheric conditions and humidity levels inside remain within the levels avoiding also a massive number of visitors. So if you and your escort want to see it, it is better organize the visit in advance. For his maintenance it is necessary implement continuous restoration works of which the most important was completed in 1990.
This magnificent artistic heritage in Milan has an unique and universal Value and it is under the protection of Italian Law; it is property of the Italian State and it is managed by the Ministry for Cultural Heritage. If you are an art and history lover I would be glad to escort you to enjoy this wanderful masterpiece.
There are a lot of mysteries, enigmas, hypothesis, conspiracies that surround this painting: it’s still being studied today from many historians, researchers and novelists who seek to solve them, but the truth is that we don’t have all the answers!