A ‘Sold out’ signs hangs outside the Santa Maria Della Grazie church in Milan. It’s a known fact that admission is only by reservation and I am smug in the fact that I have done so on the internet almost a month back! Dan Brown’s sensational novel of scheming priests, secret societies and pagan symbols inspired me to see ‘the last Supper’ and here I am in Milan, not quite on every Italian itinerary!
Restoration of The Last Supper was completed in 1999 after more than 22 years’ work. Despite the painstaking restoration effort, 80% of the original colour has been lost.
Extensive measures, including an air filtering system and restricting the number of visitors to 25 at a time for slots of 15 minutes are in place to protect the painting from dust, moisture, etc!
The painting has survived many indignities over the passage of time. The widening of a door on the wall on which it is painted cut of Jesus’ feet and napoleon’s troops used this as a stable fro their horses! In 1943, a bomb fell on the roof of the refectory, but the painting emerged from the rubble, largely unscathed protected by the sandbags! When the sandbags were removed, there was mold formed because of the moisture and it was thought that the painting could not be saved. However, Italian restorers injected some British shellac on the walls which made it dry up!
The ‘Last Supper’ specifically portrays the reaction of each apostle when Jesus said one of them would betray him. All twelve apostles have different reactions to the news, with various degrees of anger and shock. The technical perspective in “The Last Supper” is incredible. You can see that every single element of the painting directs one’s attention straight to the midpoint of the composition, Christ’s head
The ‘Last Supper’ has also been the target of much speculation by writers and historians, usually centered on hidden messages or hints found within the painting.
Some have identified the person to Jesus’ right, not as John the Apostle, but a woman, often purported to be Mary Magdalene.
How Big Is It?
It’s huge, really — 460 x 880 cm (15 x 29 feet). It covers an entire large wall, very unlike reproductions sized to hang neatly behind one’s sofa.
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