The Last Supper fresco by Leonardo da Vinci at the age of 43

made out of oil paint from 1495 to 1498

Santa Maria delle Grazie Milan, Italy, Europe

The Last Supper (Italian: Il Cenacolo or L'Ultima Cena) is a late 15th-century mural painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.

The work is presumed to have been commenced around 1495 and was commissioned as part of a scheme of renovations to the church and its convent buildings by Leonardo's patron Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. The painting represents the scene of The Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples, as it is told in the Gospel of John, 13:21. Leonardo has depicted the consternation that occurred among the Twelve Disciples when Jesus announced that one of them would betray him. Due to the methods used, and a variety of environmental factors, very little of the original painting remains today, despite numerous restoration attempts, the last being completed in 1999.

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Characters

Jesus Christ see all

Judas Iscariot see all

Techniques

Horizontal Rectangular Frame see all

One-Point Perspective see all

1495

Leonardo da Vinci begins work on The Last Supper in the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.

1497

June 29

From a sheet of instructions that Lodovico Sforza gave to his secretary:

1498

February 9

1517

Decay starts to become visible in The Last Supper.

1556

Vasari notes The Last Supper has become a mass of blots.

1652

The doorway in the refectory is enlarged through The Last Supper.

1726

Michelangelo Bellotti attempts the first restoration of The Last Supper, filling in missing sections with oil paint and then varnishing the whole mural.

1768

A curtain is hung over The Last Supper for the purpose of protection; it instead traps moisture on the surface, and whenever the curtain is pulled back, it scratches the flaking paint.

1770

Giuseppe Mazza attempts another restoration of The Last Supper, stripping off Bellotti's work then largely repainting it; he redoes all but three faces when he is halted due to public outrage.

1796

The French revolutionary anti-clerical troops use the refectory containing The Last Supper as an armory; they throw stones at the painting and climb ladders to scratch out the Apostles' eyes.

1821

Stefano Barezzi, an expert in removing whole frescoes from their walls intact, is called in to remove The Last Supper to a safer location; he badly damages the centre section before realizing that Leonardo's work is not a fresco. He then attempts to reattach damaged sections with glue.

1943

Bombs from Allied Forces destroy most of the refectory containing The Last Supper.

1495

Timoteo Viti becomes court painter in Urbino.
Leonardo da Vinci's mother Caterina is believed to die in Milan in this year.
Ludovico Sforza defeats the French at the Battle of Fornovo.
Leonardo da Vinci begins work on The Last Supper in the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.

January 1

1st January. The new Signoria entered into office, and it was a great joy to see the whole Piazza filled with citizens, quite different from other times, as a new thing, thanking God who had given this impartial government to Florence, and delivered us from subjection. And all this had been done at the instigation of the Frate.

January 2

2nd January (Friday). Two ambassadors were sent to Milan, Messer Luca Corsini and Giovanni Cavalcanti. They went in fine array. (1) > (1) To congratulate Ludovico Sforza, called Il Moro, on his becoming Duke of Milan.

January 3

3rd January (Saturday). The ambassadors returned from Pisa, without having concluded anything; and we were in much fear about the place. It was said also that Piero de' Medici had gone to the King of France to complain of having been banished, because he had kept his word; and that the king had been gracious to him; and that the said Piero made threats, especially against a certain Girolamo Martegli, who was deputed to find Piero's hidden property.(1) On the same day the sentence was passed that Ser Giovanni son of Ser Bartolomeo should be sent to Volterra into the vault of a fortress; and Ser Zanobi, who had been notary to the "Eight," was fined 500 florins, and confined in Florence; and Ser Ceccone was confined in the Stinche, together with others who had been captured. > (1) Martelli was one of the three citizens deputed by the Republic, on the 10th December, _pro computo Comunis bonorum heredum Laurentii, qui una cum tribus ex creditoribus doctorum heredum, propterea deputandorum, habeant auctoritatum cognoscendi et judicandi etc_.

January 4

4th January (Sunday). We heard that the King of France had entered Rome by agreement,(1) but, nevertheless, they did not give up the Castel Sant' Agnolo to him. It was said that he had pillaged the Orsini. (1) Giuseppe Molini, p. 22 of vol. i . of the _Documents di Storia Italiana_, publishes the agreement made on the 15th of this month between the Pope and the King.

January 6

6th January (Tuesday). The Epiphany. The "Eight," in searching for money, found in _San Marco_ 1200 florins belonging to Ser Giovanni. Some gave the blame to Fra Girolamo; but in preaching he exonerated himself, saying that he had not known anything of this money, nor had he been applied to with regard to it.

January 7

7th January (Wednesday). The men who were nominated to grant remission of debts met in the archbishop's palace and began their work. They were so fine and magnanimous that a man who owed thousands of florins paid only one or two florins. Their mercy was without measure. They imitated the Lord, who does likewise.

January 7

7th January (Wednesday). The men who were nominated to grant remission of debts met in the archbishop's palace and began their work. They were so fine and magnanimous that a man who owed thousands of florins paid only one or two florins. Their mercy was without measure. The imitated the Lord, who does likewise.

January 8

8th January (Thursday). It was said that the King of France wished to have the Castel Sant' Agnolo and the Pope and the cardinals, and the brother of the Turk,(1) who were in the said castello, delivered over to him. > (1) This was Zim or Gemme, son of the great Maometto and brother of the reigning Bajazet II., with whom he was disputing the Empire, and therefore he had taken refuge with the Pope.

January 9

9th January (Friday). We heard that the king had caused the French to give up certain silks belonging to Florence, which they had taken, and that they were in the hands of the Florentines in Rome; and that he was treating the Florentine nation well. And every day there passed horses with loads of French clothes (probably uniforms), which went to the French camp at Rome.

January 11

11th January (Sunday). Fra Girolamo preached, and spoke much concerning the reforms in the city; and exculpated himself from various accusations, saying that there were devils who disturbed the life of the commune; and that they wrote forged letters, which made it appear as if the _Frate_ had given Piero de' Medici hopes of returning in order to make the people turn against him. But nevertheless all this was untrue; he was entirely for the people and the common weal. He was calumniated by these foxes; but the truth would always prevail. It is the fact that he always encouraged this community of feeling amongst the people.

January 12

12th January (Monday). Soldiers were mustered for Pisa and sent there, and we hoped to win it back shortly.

January 13

Girolamo Savonarola preaches his great Renovation Sermon to a huge audience in the Cathedral of Florence.

January 13

13th January (Tuesday). The mortars were fetched from Arezzo and sent to Pisa, and many _spingarde_,(1) and a quantity of powder. All this time it was endeavoured to keep peace, amongst the discords of the citizens. > (1) _Spingarda_; a small old-fashioned piece of ordnance.

January 17

17th January (Saturday). Fra Girolamo preached; and concerned himself much about this peace and union of the citizens; and many of them began to grow angry with him, saying, _Questo Fraluccio ci fa capitare male_ (This wretched monk will bring us ill-luck).

January 18

18th January (Sunday). A loan of 100 thousand florins was demanded,(1) to be subscribed to by all the citizens; and the people were so much dismayed, that almost every one stopped working, and gave way to discontent. Every one said, "This thing cannot be; the poor who live by their labour will die of hunger, and will be obliged to apply for the alms of San Martino."(2) > (1) This loan was demanded, after having been approved by the Consiglio del Popolo on the 12th January, and by the Consiglio del Comune on the 13th, judging that "for the preservation of liberty and to defend ourselves from the insidious attacks made upon it, it is necessary to have a provision of money." The citizens were to be entered as creditors in a book which was called "the Loan of MCCCCLXXXXV., so that it may always be known who felt affection for their city, and that others might follow their example," etc. > > (2) See note to 6th December, 1494.

January 20

20th January. Many Florentines arrived here, about 400, driven out from Pisa by the Pisans, and having left their wives and children and their shops, after being very ill-treated.(1) > (1) Of this bad treatment there is testimony even in the Pisan documents. A letter of the 27th January, 1494 (1495, New Style), refers to an apothecary who "on his departure was nearly dead," and "his wife was insulted and frightened, . . . and threatened with being carried off" (_Archivo di Stato di Pisa Lettere agli Anziani_, i. 29).

January 21

21st January. Our commissioners left for Pisa, and took with them many courageous young men fully determined to punish the Pisans. We hired many soldiers also, and large bodies of infantry went from the neighbourhood of Pistoia and all the country round, without pay. Everyone was ready to go there, thinking that the whole district would be sacked. No one thought much of their power of resistance; but we were mistaken, as will be seen later, for they were very persistent and united in their defence.

January 22

22nd January. An ambassador came to us from the emperor, who was going on to Rome to the King of France.

January 23

23rd January. We continued sending men to Pisa.

January 25

25th January. Fra Girolamo preached, and asked leave of absence, saying he had to go to Lucca. The people were much displeased.

January 27

27th January. The Consiglio Maggiore (Great Council) met and appointed a council of 80 men, who with the Signoria would have to choose the ambassadors, reply to letters, and do much other business.(1) (1) On the 23rd December a provision was made which established that by the 15th January these 80 citizens must be appointed. "It is seen to be necessary, for matters that may happen any day, that the _Signoria_ or other magistrates should have a certain number of citizens with whom they may confer and whose opinion they can ask, and so that the magistrates should not have to call up one more than another on their authority."

January 28

28th January. We heard that our troops had captured many forts from the Pisans and were making raids all over the country.(1) (1) See Ammirato and Portoveneri.

January 31

31st January. The "Eighty" wanted to carry through certain things, but they did not succeed.

February 1

1st February. They did not carry through anything, because they said that the only thing they wished to carry through was a tax on property.

February 2

2nd February. We heard that the King of France had been defeated at Terracina, on entering the Kingdom (of Naples), and that there were hundreds slain.

February 4

4th February. The tax on property was passed by the "Eighty."

February 5

5th February. The French Cardinal Sammalò,(1) who had just been made cardinal by the Pope, entered Florence. He had come here with the King of France as a bishop; and now he was returning to France. He had many horsemen with him. He was lodged in Santa Maria Novella in the papal apartments. All this time it was said that the King of France was in a bad situation, and there was cause for fear. > (1) Guillaume Briconnet, Bishop of Saint-Malo. From the 25th January, the Pisan ambassadors had written that the _Reverandissimo_ of Saint-Malo, a man, they said, "of great intellect and authority," was going to be sent to Florence by the King of France, not on his way to France, but to remain in Tuscany or the neighbourhood, in order to preserve peace during the stay of the king in the kingdom of Naples; and in case of his going to Pisa begged the Signori to receive him and his suite with honour, "going to meet him outside, and with as many men" as was possible. He had left Rome the morning of the 27th January (_Lettere_, quoted i. 38).

February 5

5th February. The tax on property, that is to say, the Decima, was passed by the Consiglio Maggiore; but the provision that it could not be imposed more than once a year, or less frequently.(1) > (1) It was called _Decima_ because the tenth of the value on all land and house property had to be paid. See note 5th February, 1495.

February 6

6th February. Costly presents were sent to him (i.e. to the cardinal).

February 8

8th February. The Signoria went to visit him, and later, after having dined, sent eight(1) of the chief citizens to hear what he desired. And he asked for the money which had been promised to the king, and the loan of 40 thousand florins besides. > (1) Ammirato and the documents published in vol. i. of the _Negotiations diplomatiques de la France avec la Toscane_ give five, and the names are as follows: Guidantonio Vespucci, Tanai de' Nerli, Guglielmo de' Pazzi, Francesco Valori, and Lorenzo de' Medici, who had changed his family name, taking that of Popolani.

February 9

9th February. The Signori burnt all the tickets of the ballot-bags, because they said that the names had been chosen according to the wishes of a few powerful citizens.

February 11

11th February. There were negotiations with the cardinal concerning giving Pisa over to us, and he wanted 70 thousand florins.

February 17

17th February. The Cardinal Sa' Malò left here, and went to Pisa in order to give it over to us. And some of our citizens went with him, amongst others Francesco Valori and Pagolantonio Soderini.

February 19

19th February. It was proclaimed that during the whole month of March the papers should be distributed (on which were to be filled in all particulars) for the tax of the _Decima_ about to be imposed upon property. 19th February. We heard that the king had been defeated.

February 20

20th February. We heard that he had taken Gaeta.

February 22

22nd February. We received the news that the King of France had taken Capua, and was near Naples. It was thought that he would capture it quickly.

February 24

24th February. The Cardinal di Sa' Malo returned from Pisa without giving it over to us. And it was said that we should have to take it by assault. It was also said that the king had a hand in it, for he held both the new and the old citadels.

February 25

25th February. We heard that the King of France had taken Naples, and how he had entered it on the 21st without a blow. The King of Naples took refuge in the _Castel dell' Uovo_. This news was proclaimed here with great rejoicing, with drums and fifes, and the shops were shut. There were many bonfires and lights(1) on the towers, and other manifestations, to commemorate such a conquest.(2) > (1) These _pangeli_ were pieces of stuff swimming in oil or dipped in grease, and placed in flat round tins. > > (2) This is confirmed by a decree of the Signori on this date, which besides commanding the shops to be shut, also orders processions to be made on three successive mornings.

February 26

26th February. A great procession was made, and the cardinal joined in it, and it took place three days running.

February 27

27th February. The Cardinal Sa' Malò left here, who had come to deliver Pisa over to us, and had not done so; but he carried away with him 22 thousand florins, and returned to the king at Naples.

March 2

2nd March (Monday). Our troops made a raid into the Pisan territory, and destroyed their mills, and took many prisoners and much cattle.

March 4

4th March. There were very grateful letters from the King of France, telling us how pleased he was that we had celebrated the conquest of Naples.

March 5

5th March. Four ambassadors were chosen to go to the King of France and Naples, who were: Messer Guido Antonio, Pagolo Antonio Soderini, the Bishop de' Pazzi, and Lorenzo son of Piero Francesco de' Medici.(1) > (1) Landucci is not correct in the names of these ambassadors the work already quoted, Negotiations, etc., we read the instruction given to them and their names, but instead of Soderini and Pazzi are Bernardo Rucellai and Lorenzo Morelli. Ammirato, however, gives Soderini instead of Morelli; the truth is that the latter was appointed to replace the former, who was prevented from leaving on account of illness.

March 6

6th March. There was much argument as to why the king did not give Pisa over to us, seeing that we were such friends of his country and also that he had promised it us on the capture of Naples.

March 10

10th March. Piero Capponi went to our camp at Pisa and took money to the soldiers.

March 13

13th March. It was said that the king was about to return north.

March 16

16th March. There was a debate how to keep peace amongst the citizens, and about doing away with the authority of six votes(1); and this was carried through by the Signori and Collegi. > (1) The original provision (see _Reg. di Prow, ad an._) is entitled _Lex pads et appelationis sex fabarum Provosio_, and contains arrangements for the peace, as the Diary says; which consist in an indulgence, or amnesty as we should now say, within certain limits, for anyone who had favoured the Government in power till the 9th November. There is also an article which ordains that anyone eligible for office who for some reason of State has been condemned by the Signori or the Otto di Balia or di Guardia to death, confinement, banishment, or imprisonment, or to a fine above 300 (large) florins, can and may appeal to the Great Council," and be absolved by them with certain ceremonies. And it is this, I think, that was meant by doing away with the authority of the six fave, i.e. the six votes with which the Signori or the Otto could condemn.

March 19

19th March. It was carried through the "Eighty" also.

March 19

19th March. It was carried through the Great Council. And the petition declares that all political offences would be cancelled from the day of Piero de' Medici being driven out, except where fraud was involved; and that the Signoria should not be able to imprison without the consent of the Great Council.

March 22

22nd March. We heard that the king had taken the _Castello dell' Uovo_.

March 26

1495. 26th March. Large bodies of soldiers were mustered to send to Pisa.

April 1

1st April. Fra Girolamo preached, and said and testified that the Virgin Mary had revealed to him, that after going through much trouble, the city of Florence was to be the most glorious, the richest, and the most powerful that ever existed; and he promised this absolutely. All these things he spoke as a prophet, and the greater part of the people believed him, especially quiet people without political or party passions.

April 2

2nd April. It was said that a league had been made between the Venetians, the Duke of Milan, the Emperor, the Pope, the King of Spain, and the Genoese; and we should be given till the end of April to decide whether we would join it.

April 7

p85 7th April. We heard that the king intended to return here.

April 9

p85 9th April. We heard that the King of France had sent to demand that all the part of Florence beyond the Arno should be assigned him for quarters; and it was said that he would give Pisa back to us.

April 9

p85 8th April. Fra Girolamo preached in the Palagio, confirming everything that he had said before.

April 13

p85 13th April. We heard that our soldiers had made a raid into the Pisan territory as far as San Piero in Grado, taking much cattle.

April 17

p85 17th April. We heard that the Pisans had made a raid on our territory, in the district of Pescia.

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Kenneth Clark English museum director, aesthetician, television presenter, art historian, art critic, writer

Untitled

Evidently one cannot look for long at the The Last Supper without ceasing to study it as a composition, and beginning to speak of it as a drama. It is the most literary of all great pictures, one of the few of which the effect may largely be conveyed — can even be enhanced — by description.

Source: Leonardo da Vinci, chapter 5.

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