One of Leonardo’s Most Powerful Works
Where else can you tell a taxicab driver the name of a painting as your destination, and expect to get there? Every self-respecting Milanese, cabbie or not, knows the location of Leonardo da Vinci’s II Cenacolo (The Last Supper), one of the world’s most famous images, tucked away in the Gothic church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
The entire country closely followed the painstaking twenty-year restoration that was completed in 1999. On a wall in what once was the refectory of the church’s adjacent convent, Leonardo created this powerful 28-foot mural.
Capturing the emotion-packed moment of Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, it began to deteriorate almost immediately following its completion in 1495. Its recent restoration was as controversial as that of the Sistine Chapel, with some historians claiming that precious little has survived of the original painting or coloring, having been re- (and mis-) interpreted a little too zealously over time by countless restorers (there have been seven restorations since 1726); others herald it as a milestone of patience and craftmanship.
There is no dismissing that it is one of Leonardo’s finest works, one whose every brushstroke revealed the “intentions of the soul.” He searched for years among the city’s criminals for Judas’s face; the result, art historian Giorgio Vasari declared, was “the very embodiment of treachery and inhumanity.”