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Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”

Never has there been a more epic artistic depiction of a simple supper than by the  hands of Leonardo da Vinci – a known artist, inventor, engineer – the list goes on –  who seemed to think:” If I am going to paint people eating then I might as well go all the way: include Jesus and obscure signs, apply a completely new technique of painting and break the fourth wall to really mess with people’s perception.”

If you’re a visual artist, here’s some advice!

Once again, representing the religious painting genre, “The Last Supper” hides more than meets the eye. If you’ve ever wanted to express hidden meanings and convey certain notions using only a brush, colors, or any other artistic tool of your choice then Leonardo’s interpretation of Jesus’ last supper is a perfect example to learn from. Also, if you’re struggling to figure out how to add more depth to your artworks and make the impression stronger then even more the reason to familiarize yourself with “The Last Supper”.

Three-dimensional perception and how to achieve it

As the story goes, Leonardo hammered a nail into the wall. He then proceeded to tie strings to it and drew them out to form guidelines that would help him trace back the focal point of his painting at any given time thus adding the element of depth. 

Imagine a centre dot in the middle of the picture with diagonal lines coming out of it and extending toward the edges of the picture. It will help to create that three-dimensional perception that sucks the viewer into the creator’s world.

That is basically what da Vinci did and by using this automatically drew the viewer’s eyes on the main character – Jesus.

Bringing your work to life

What gives “The Last Supper” more personality is how dynamic and active the twelve apostles appear to be. Jesus alone seems calm and composed but others look animated or agitated: hand gestures, leaning towards the central figure, engaging in a lively conversation.  This naturally begs the question: “What is going on?”. And this right here is a perfect way to capture your audience’s attention: give them emotions, show events unfolding right before their eyes, tell them a story. 

Da Vinci – the story behind the painting

Here is a brief overview of this particular tale. Apparently, Jesus is indeed having his last supper and has just casually announced that there is a traitor among the people close to him who will turn him in to the authorities which will lead to his crucifixion. Most, if not all of his disciples are in disbelief and cannot either believe or accept what Jesus just said and fathom his tranquil state. This has caused them to reaffirm their loyalty and express their concern for Jesus.

All of this and much more Leonardo masterfully managed to capture in his painting.


Hiding signs and omens in your art

If you want to create something worth remembering and appreciation you need to understand both your craft and subject of inspiration on a decent level. Fair enough, you don’t have to be a flat-out fanatic but the more you know, the more it shows. 

Da Vinci for instance appeared to have a certain level of understanding of Jesus and his disciples. This is reflected by a figure believed to be Judas (5th from our left) who is holding what seems to be a bag of silver, thus indicating his lust for money and reward for betraying his teacher.

Another figure, who has caused numerous arguments and disputes over time, is the person sitting on Jesus’ right hand. While some believe it to be St. John others claim it to be Mary Magdalene due to the person’s feminine-looking facial features. Something that Leonardo was notorious for using.

The Last Supper

Tempera, Oil and debates

By understanding the zeitgeist of his era and either deliberately or unwillingly creating controversy in his tempera and oil paint on plaster, the author managed to make sure that his work would be remembered for years to come.

What happened to the painting and where is it now?

The final fate of “The Last Supper” is bittersweet: while it was managed to preserve as a whole and is located in Italy in the city of Milan, in the convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie, very little of Leonardo da Vinci’s original brushstrokes have remained due to numerous restoration efforts and being exposed to different climatic conditions over time. Due to a series of historic events.

You can still appreciate the artist’s work but keep in mind that like many other historic masterpieces this one has also had its fair share of repainting and suffered damage.

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