“The Last Supper” or “Cenacolo Vinciano” by Leonardo da Vinci is a large 15th-century mural painting, located in the monastery of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and connected to the Sforza Castle by an underground passage.
In 1490 Ludovico “the Moor” Sforza decided to turn the church into his own mausoleum, entrusting the construction of the buildings to renowned architect Donato Bramante. Leonardo’s painting adorns a wall of the huge refectory, opposite the imposing scene of the Crucifixion by Donato da Montorfano.
TheThe painting of the Last Supper began around 1494 and was completed in 1497. Leonardo chose to portray the most dramatic moment of the evening when Christ speaks the words, “One of you shall betray me”, to which each of the twelve Apostles reacts differently.
Da Vinci didn’t adopt the usual fresco technique, seeking instead a method that would allow him to make continual adjustments on the work. However, just a few years after the fresco was completed, the paint began to detach from the plaster and gradually crumbled.
The work later suffered even more serious damage including efforts to remove it from the wall; disastrous attempts at fixing the paint; a door was put in and subsequently walled up at the centre of the wall, below the figure of Christ; under Napoleon, the refectory was turned into a stable, and lastly, the wartime bombing raids in 1943 caused the collapse of both the sidewalls and the roof.
The most recent restoration work, lasting over twenty years, removed the layers of dirt and the materials added during earlier works, bringing large parts of the original painting to light. One of the main agents of deterioration is dust, which is why the refectory and visitor flows are constantly monitored.
If you’re visiting Milan, you certainly cannot miss this artistic masterpiece!