Today's Inspiration- The Last Supper

by - Friday, August 08, 2014

Leonardo Da Vinci, The Last Supper, Santa Maria delle Grazie, 1495-98. from

You may not think of the Last Supper as a failed experiment, but no other masterwork in history has caused as much trouble. Because Leonardo da Vinci consistently used experimental techniques and took risks, some of his paintings were built to last, and some weren't. This irregular fresco in Santa Maria della Grazie was painted dry instead of wet, and many said his tempera had egg in it.

Because of the choices he made and the position of the wall (it is on the exterior of the building), the painting was already deteriorating in his lifetime, and there are stories of da Vinci having to fix the flaky painting in his own lifetime. The first major restoration took place in the 1700's. They have had to restore the work about twice a century since then.

You could read this all as a sign that da Vinci's experiment failing, that his mark as an artist, in this case, is completely gone, and that his efforts to change the fresco failed. Or you can think of the Last Supper as a painting that stays alive and awake amongst many paintings that have much less active lives in the present day. This painting is both in the past and about the constant changes and advances in restoration technology in the present. When you think of it that way, it's hardly surprising that the painting maintains a pretty constant pop culture presence and religious prominence. Not to mention you can see versions all over the world (we saw one in Peru where Jesus and the disciples ate guinea pig and drank corn beer).

Would the painting be as alive if it didn't have this constant narrative of restoration around it? Who the hell knows, but I would like to think it remains powerfully present because of da Vinci's choices, not despite them.

You May Also Like