Decoding The Last Supper Painting Secrets by Da Vinci.

Spread the love

One of you will betray me,’’ said Jesus to his disciples, setting the stage for one of the most renowned artworks in the world: Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper’’. Centuries after its creation, these mysterious words immortalized in this iconic masterpiece continue to captivate scholars and art lovers. Behind each brushstroke lies a labyrinth of fascinating secrets waiting to be unveiled. From hidden symbols to centuries-old controversies, prepare to be amazed by the Last Supper painting secrets.

 

secrets of the Last Supper painting

The Last Supper is one of the most famous stories in the Bible, which has inspired plenty of art and endless speculation down the centuries. Here are some potential answers.

 

20 Surprising Secrets of the Last Supper painting

 

1. How big is da Vinci’s Last Supper?

Leonardo’s Last Supper isn’t just famous; it’s also impressively big. The most famous religious painting in the world measures a whopping 4.6 m x 8.8 m (15 feet x 29 feet). It’s da Vinci’s largest work, aside from the Sala delle Asse in Sforza Castle in Milan.

Sala delle Asse

The Sala delle Asse –  one of Milan’s most iconic works, Sforza Castle.

 

DID YOU KNOW?

Before revealing the secrets of the Last Supper painting, let’s say something about its author. Da Vinci was a person of wide knowledge during the Renaissance in Italy. He was active as a painter, engineer, scientist, sculptor and architect during the Renaissance.

da Vinci self portrait

FUN FACT:

Da Vinci had a bit of a reputation for leaving projects half-done. He was a master at starting things but not so great at finishing them. Some attribute this to his perfectionism. Forever making tiny adjustments to his creations, he found it hard to let them go long after they were probably complete. Because of that, many people find him unreliable. You can spot some of his unfinished masterpieces and early artworks at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

 

2. How old was da Vinci when he painted the Last Supper?

Imagine 42-year-old Leonardo feeling the weight of unfulfilled potential looming over him like a storm cloud. This brilliant mind craved fame and a burning desire to leave his mark on the world. And guess what? He achieved just that with The Last Supper! Leonardo da Vinci was around 43 years old when he painted the iconic Last Supper. After that, he secured his place in art history forever.

 

3. How long did the Last Supper take to paint?

the Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo wasn’t exactly in a rush. It took da Vinci about three years to paint the Last Supper. But can you blame him? Masterpieces take time.

 

Sadly, we cannot pinpoint the exact start date because the old records from that time are long gone. Da Vinci started working on it around 1495 and finally put down his brush in 1498, according to a document from 1497. But he wasn’t painting non-stop as if he was a marathon runner. No, he took breaks in between and worked on the other projects.

Legend has it that he even received a complaint from the head of the monastery about the delay. Da Vinci had a good excuse, though – he was on a mission to find the perfect face for Judas (the bad guy in the painting). He even joked that if he couldn’t find the right face, he might just use the prior’s grumpy face instead. Imagine that – that’s what we call artistic blackmail! Classic Leonardo, always keeping things interesting.

 

4. Not displayed in a museum.

Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan

If you’re on the hunt for da Vinci’s Last Supper, you won’t find it collecting dust in just any old museum. Unlike some of Leonardo’s other famed works, this masterpiece has a more exclusive address. It’s got its special spot at the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy.

Here is the kicker: this colossal painting covers the entire north wall of the refectory in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. That’s where you will discover this over 520-year-old UNESCO-listed masterpiece.

 

5. Political statement

The Last Supper wasn’t only about the art; it was a savvy political move, securing Sforza’s legacy for all time. Sforza hired Leonardo da Vinci to paint the Last Supper mural as part of the renovation of the current convent.

It’s not just a pretty picture, it’s a bold political move. Let us break it down for you.

 

Ludovico Sforza, an Italian nobleman who became the Duke of Milan, was all about putting his city on the map for art and science. He was throwing money left and right, becoming a patron of artists and writers. He turned his court into one of the hottest spots in Europe during the Italian Renaissance.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Sforza wanted his family to have the grandest resting place imaginable – a family mausoleum. So, he hired none other than Leonardo to paint a mural as part of the renovation of the current convent. While this genius worked his magic on the painting, the main church was still a work in progress.

So, The Last Supper wasn’t only about the art; it was a savvy political move, securing Sforza’s legacy for all time.

 

6. Not just a fresco, but a failed experiment

Not just a fresco, but a failed experiment

While many think Da Vinci used the typical fresco technique, he surprised everyone with an unconventional approach. He was a rule-breaker, and this grand experiment turned into a valuable lesson in ”what not to do’‘.

 

Leonardo was all about thinking outside the box and attention to detail. According to our guide, da Vinci painted The Last Supper for 3 years, but the first drawings of the composition date back to 1490. Frescoes demanded speed, but this Renaissance artist was an extremely slow worker. He was in no rush, adding every little detail. He wanted to create something magnificent, not a rushed job.

Now, here’s where it gets juicy: da Vinci went for something bold. Instead of rushing the painting before the plaster dried (like a typical fresco), he opted for a tempera and oil painting on plaster. Smart move, right? Well, it was… until it wasn’t. Unfortunately, this dry-wall painting didn’t quite turn out well. The result? This unusual method backfired, causing the paint on the wall in a monastery in Milan to not stick as it should. It began to flake away only a few decades after da Vinci put down his brush.

 

7. The Last Supper painting secrets: the layout

The layout of da Vinci’s Last Supper is like a masterclass in perspective. Leonardo nailed it (literally) with this painting. The layout of The Last Supper painting is also one of the secrets of this masterpiece. Why, do you ask? This world-famous painting is a prime example of a one-point perspective. The painting has a symmetrical design and carefully crafted angles, drawing you right into the dramatic scene.

 

What’s the secret behind this mesmerizing illusion?

Well, Leonardo got crafty with a nail and some string. He hammered a nail into the wall and tied string to it, using it as a guide to create the angles. Those marks helped him mark out the table ends, floor lines, and even the edges of the ceiling.

the Last Supper painting secrets - perspective. The layout of da Vinci’s Last Supper is like a masterclass in perspective. Leonardo nailed it (literally) with this painting.

It’s like a geometric masterpiece brought to life. With every brush stroke, the string guided his hand along these marks, ensuring every detail was just right.

 

But wait, there’s more! The painting is all about balance. There is the same number of figures on each side of Jesus (creating a harmonious visual feast). And get this: da Vinci strategically places the vanishing point right behind Christ’s right temple. He wanted to draw viewers right into the heart of the action – making sure we couldn’t take our eyes off Jesus.

 

8. Who were the 12 disciples at da Vinci’s The Last Supper?

The painting captures a crucial moment from the Gospel of John when Jesus delivers the bombshell about the betrayal. Each disciple reacts differently to this shocking announcement, resulting in a table full of diverse emotions among the disciples. Some of them are in shock, while others show doubt and display their unique quirks and reactions. They are grouped in threes – this way Leonardo breaks down the story and emotions in the room.

the Last Supper painting secrets: The 12 apostles are grouped in threes – this way Leonardo da Vinci breaks down the story and emotions in the room.

 

But who exactly are these Apostles, you ask? Well, from left to right, we have Bartholomew, James the son of Alphaeus, Andrew, Judas (the infamous traitor), Peter and John. At the heart of it all sits Jesus, of course. Then comes Thomas (Mr. Doubtful), James the Greater, Philip, Matthew, Jude Thaddeus and Simon.

the last supper painting secrets: the last supper painting who is who

Here’s the twist: In the past, only a few, like Judas, Peter, John, and obviously Jesus himself, were easy to identify. But thanks to the help of an unsigned mid-sixteenth-century fresco copy of Leonardo’s Cenacolo, we now have names for all twelve apostles. So, there you have it – thirteen individuals, each with a unique vibe.

 

Never before has an artist cooked up drama in a painting, with the smallest details and figures so real you think they’d jump out.

 

9. The Last Supper painting secrets – Saints or simple men?

Lippo Memmi's Last Supper, San Gimignano

Lippo Memmi’s Last Supper.

 

The Last Supper theme was a pretty popular topic for the walls of monasteries and other holy places in 15th-century Italy. But there is something unique about da Vinci’s painting that sets it apart from other paintings of its kind. Let’s uncover two more Last Supper painting secrets.

 

Previously, artists used to show Judas separately or put halos on everyone but him. But da Vinci? In his famous version, there are no halos, hinting that there are just regular folks, not saints or anything fancy. It’s like he’s saying, “Hey, these guys are just like you and me.”

Now, here’s where it gets juicy. Some art historians think da Vinci was all about nature, not much of a traditional believer. He believed more in nature than in the big guy on the cloud, so he treated all with no saintly status.

 

10. Milanese faces

Now, let’s have a look at those fascinating faces in the painting. There are some wild theories swirling around this famous painting. One theory suggests that da Vinci didn’t just imagine those apostles’ faces – he actually based them on real people from Milan. Imagine him walking down the streets of Milan and suddenly realizing, “Hey, that guy looks just like Bartholomew!” And get this – when he couldn’t find anyone shady-looking enough for Judas, he used a criminal as a model.

One theory suggests that da Vinci didn’t just imagine those apostles' faces – he actually based them on real people from Milan.

Da Vinci went straight to the jails, hunting for the perfect face to capture Judas’ evil vibe. When the convent’s prior complained about his “laziness,” Leonardo fired back, saying he would stick the prior himself right in there.

 

But wait, it gets even crazier. Ever heard the rumour that da Vinci sneakily slipped his own face into the mural? Although it’s never been confirmed, some art buffs reckon that Leonardo painted himself as St. James the Lesser.

 

Is St. John the Less a Leonardo da Vinci’s self-portrait?

Is St. John the Lesser (in the middle) a Leonardo da Vinci’s self-portrait?

 

No time to read now? Save Surprising Secrets of the Last Supper painting

to read later.

the Last Supper painting secrets, fascinating facts about the Last Supper

 

11. Table

the Last Supper painting secrets: The Last Supper painting is full of symbolism - even its table has some serious secrets.

The Last Supper painting is full of symbolism – even its table has some serious secrets.

 

Look closely at the simple rustic table which stretches across the whole painting. It’s not just any random table design but a white tablecloth with blue stripes. Now, why blue, do you ask? Well, it turns out those colours aren’t just for show – blue indicates the Jewish heritage of Jesus and his people.

But there is more to the story of this table. Da Vinci wasn’t just slapping together any old dinner scene – he wanted it to feel as real as possible. Leonardo put some serious thought into it. He set the most iconic meal in 15th-century Milan. And get this – the table, the cutlery, even the tablecloth match those the friars used when they ate in the dining room.

 

12. Eel or herring?

the Last Supper painting secrets - Is it herring or eel?

Now, let’s dive into the dinner scene deeper. Researchers from the Université de Montréal Faculty of Theology dug deeper into Leonardo’s painting and unearthed some fascinating insights. Brainy folks uncovered a hidden layer of symbolism, suggesting a deeper meaning in the depicted food. There is also a sneaky reminder that Jesus spent most of his life around Lake Tiberias and his choice of 4 apostles from local fishermen. These were Peter, Andrew, James and John.

But here’s the twist – the identity of fish remains a mystery. Is it herring or eel? Well, in Italian, eel translates to “aringa,” which also means indoctrination. On the flip side, “renga” is Italian slang for herring and can also mean someone denying religion. It’s like da Vinci’s playing a sneaky game of wordplay with us.

The eel supposedly symbolizes faith in Christ, while the herring represents someone without a pinch of faith. It’s like a culinary metaphor for Jesus’ prediction that Peter would chicken out and deny knowing him. Talk about a fishy prophecy!

 

13. The painting has been through a lot

the last supper painting secrets - this masterpiece has been through a lot

Leonardo’s super famous mural has had quite a rough ride through history.

 

Back in the day, when Sforza was all about fast building this church, they stuffed the walls with moisture-loving rubble. And poor Leonardo painted his stunning painting on a thin exterior wall. When the humidity hit, the paint just couldn’t stick around properly. But the troubles did not stop there.

Things went down the hill fast. Fast forward a few decades, the painting started to flake. Only sixty years after Leonardo finished it, it went from a stunning masterpiece to what Giorgio Vasari described as “a muddle of blots.” Then some monks decided to make a new door, and oops, they ended up taking a chunk of Jesus’s feet with it. Then came the 18th century, and they thought a protective curtain would help – spoiler alert: it didn’t. It just made things worse by trapping moisture and scratching off even more paint whenever they moved it.

 

Can you believe it?

As if it wasn’t bad enough, Napoleon’s soldiers turned the area into a battlefield. They used it as an armour and a stable. They even damaged the wall with projectiles and climbed ladders to scratch out the disciples’ eyes. And when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Nazis bombed the monastery during World War II. After that, the surrounding walls turned into rubble. Luckily, a protective structure saved Leonardo’s work, but the vibrations from the bombs might have caused some damage. As a result, by the end of the 20th century, Leonardo’s Last Supper was barely recognizable.

the Last Supper painting secrets - this masterpiece has been through a lot; the Nazis bombed the monastery during World War II, and luckily a protective structure saved Leonardo’s work.

 

Santa Maria delle Grazie bombing in Milan

On August 15th, 1943, a bomb destroyed much of the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery. The bomb miraculously spared the Last Supper painting and the wall with Donato Montorfano’s crucifixion.

 

crucifixion Donato Montorfano

 

14. Early copies of the Last Supper

Did you know there are three early copies of da Vinci’s Last Supper? They were created to ensure the preservation of this precious artwork. Leonardo’s assistants and other artists in Milan made these copies for admiration and conservation. These replicas, almost as large as the original, have survived until this day.

LOST DETAILS

The Last Supper painting secrets: Early copies reveal lost details, such as Christ’s feet.

 

Giampietrino’s version hangs at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, while Cesare da Sesto’s copy is at the Church of St. Ambrogio in Switzerland. And the last one? You can find it on display at the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Belgium.

 

FUN FACT:

Detailed copy in London became the primary reference for restoring the original Last Supper. The 20-year-long restoration played a crucial role in preserving da Vinci’s masterpiece for future generations.

 

the Last Supper painting secrets - Da Vinci's Last Supper painting got a makeover using computers.

DID YOU KNOW?

Da Vinci’s Last Supper painting got a makeover using computers. They wanted to make it look like as it did in the 1500s, to take you back in time. You can check it out at The World of Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Milan.

 

15. Restorations

The Last Supper painting secrets: the famous mural is not 100% da Vinci’s work.

The Last Supper painting secrets: the famous mural is not 100% da Vinci’s work.

 

Da Vinci’s Last Supper had a quite makeover journey. After five centuries of numerous environmental factors, intentional damage and some questionable restoration chaos only fragments of the original painting remain.

 

Restoration adventures

Let’s go back to 1978 when the restoration team led by Pinin Brambilla stepped in. This legendary Italian art restorer didn’t mess around – they embarked on a full rescue mission. Imagine using high-tech tools like sonar, radar tests, and even X-rays to see through the layers of paint, grime and dust covering the original artwork. Armed with brushes and expertise, Brambilla revealed Leonardo’s strokes beneath.

But there was a catch – only half of da Vinci’s strokes remained intact. For the damaged parts, she got creative. Some areas were beyond repair, so she filled in the gaps with watercolour where Leonardo’s delicate strokes had faded. And guess what? Along the way, they discovered a tiny pinhole – da Vinci’s secret spot for perspective.

 

The restoration marathon lasted over two decades, during which the public couldn’t even peek at the artwork. The restoration unveiled forgotten details like the background landscape, the original paint hues of faces and hands, and even the bread and glasses on the tablecloth. After 21 years, some folks dubbed it “The Lost Supper,” while the others were over the moon.

 

A modern makeover

But the makeover didn’t stop there. Authorities turned the former dining hall into a high-tech fortress. Now, it has climate control to prevent environmental threats, and you must pass through several humidity filtration chambers. Plus, you can only see it for 15 minutes.

 

Other Last Supper painting secrets

 

 16. The spilled salt

the Last Supper painting secrets - One of the fascinating symbols is the spilt salt because it wasn’t just any ordinary accident; it was a warning sign, a bad omen.

Superstition from the Middle Ages.

 

The Last Supper painting is like a treasure map of secrets. One of the fascinating symbols is the spilled salt. Barely noticeable in the faded original, there’s an overturned salt shaker right next to Judas. Now, why is this such a big deal?

Back in the day, people were seriously superstitious about spilling salt. It wasn’t just any ordinary accident; it was a warning sign, a bad luck, a bad omen. This superstition has ancient roots, tracing back to Roman times. Similarly, like the shady shadows on Judas’ face or the coins jingling in his grip, that spilled salt was another hint from da Vinci. It is another clue about the betrayal that would happen just hours after this scene.

 

 17. Hidden melody

the Last Supper painting secrets - hidden melody. The bread, the hands of Jesus, and the Apostles might hide a secret melody.

The bread, the hands of Jesus, and the Apostles might hide a secret melody.

 

A doctorate candidate may have cracked the code of a hidden hymn within Leonardo’s famous painting. The Italian musician Giovanni Maria Pala discovered some musical notes by tracing lines in the artwork. Crazy, huh? What’s more fascinating is that an artist even used these notes to create a 40-second tune in 2007. But here’s the twist – to unlock da Vinci’s musical magic, you read notes from right to left, just as he intended. Once you follow these musical clues, you realize that Leonardo was likely not only painting but also composing.

 

18. The Last Supper painting secrets: Numerological message

the Last Supper painting secrets - Numerological message

In numerology, people believe numbers have special meanings. Leonardo sprinkled a bunch of them through his masterpiece.

 

Scholars and art buffs have been scratching their heads for ages, trying to decode what Leonardo was trying to tell us. First up, we’ve got the number three. It’s everywhere! The Apostles chill in groups of three, there are three windows, and Jesus is in a triangle shape. Now, in Catholic art, three is like a magic number, representing divinity or the Holy Trinity.

But hold your horses – it doesn’t stop there. The number four also plays a starring role. The Apostles? Arranged in four groups of three. Look at the wall – four sets of tapestries with three gaps in between. And check the windows framed by four supports.

 

33133

the Last Supper painting secrets: Some historians think there is a secret code hidden in how the groups are set up: 3, 3, 1, 3, 3. Turns out it’s actually a Bible verse, Lamentations 3:31-33: "For no one is cast off from the Lord forever."

A painting with a purpose.

 

But here’s where it gets really juicy. Some smarty-pants think there is a secret code hidden in how the groups are set up: 3, 3, 1, 3, 3. Sounds like coordinates, right? Turns out it’s actually a Bible verse, Lamentations 3:31-33: “For no one is cast off from the Lord forever.” Translation: Nobody’s ever left out by the big boss on the cloud. Some think it’s all about forgiving Judas, while others reckon it’s a bit more personal to da Vinci.

You see, Leo had a bit of a scandalous past, being accused of homosexuality during his younger days in Florence. So, maybe Leo was painting his way to redemption.

 

The Last Supper Painting Secrets: Other speculation:

 

19. The person to the left of Jesus is not Saint John but Mary Magdalene

the Last Supper painting secrets: Is John actually Mary Magdalene?

Is John actually Mary Magdalene?

 

Thanks to Dan Brown’s bestselling novel and a movie, there has been quite a stir about the identity of the person next to Jesus. According to Brown’s wild theories, it’s not an apostle but Mary Magdalene. He even suggests there’s a hidden ‘M’ in the painting, hinting at Mary Magdalene or Matrimonio (Italian for marriage). But hold onto your seats – Dan Brown’s novel goes even further. It proposes that Jesus and Mary had a child. Quite wild, right? But remember, this is all fiction.

the Last Supper painting secrets: The person to the left of Jesus is not Saint John but Mary Magdalene. Many mistakenly believe that Jesus had a child with her because they see a shape ‘’V’’, between the figure of Christ and the claimed woman. It symbolizes a woman’s belly, the Holy Grail secret.

Many mistakenly believe that Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene. It’s because they see a shape ‘’V’’, between the figure of Christ and the claimed woman. It symbolizes a woman’s belly, the Holy Grail secret.

 

Why does he look so girly?

John the Lesser - Why does he look so girly? According to our tour guide, art historians believe da Vinci gave him a more feminine appearance because he was younger.

Ideas of Renaissance society

 

Despite the novel’s popularity, many art experts aren’t buying it. They are pretty sure that the figure is actually John the Apostle, not Mary Magdalene. According to our tour guide, art historians believe da Vinci gave him a more feminine appearance because he was younger. Also, according to Wikipedia, Leonardo was all about mixing things up when it came to gender, blurring the lines between sexes. You can see it in his other paintings, for example, St John the Baptist. It’s like he had this fascination with playing gender games in his art.

Now, before you get too carried away, let’s pump the breaks a bit and let’s not forget the facts. It’s highly unlikely Leonardo would risk painting something so controversial in a room where monks would see the painting daily. Plus, the Bible supports John’s presence at the dinner, not Mary Magdalene’s. So, as fascinating as this theory is, it is probably more fiction than fact.

 

20. The Last Supper painting Bonus point – book months in advance

The Last Supper painting secrets: you must book your tickets 3 months in advance.

The Last Supper painting secrets: You can’t just stroll in whenever you feel like it. Instead, you need to be organized and book your tickets well in advance.

 

You can spot Leonardo’s Last Supper at the Santa Maria delle Grazie complex. This famous and consistently endangered artwork is a UNESCO site. You can visit the church anytime, but if you want to see the world-famous mural, you’ve got to plan ahead.

Here is where it gets juicy: Reservations open up every three months, and trust us, you’ve got to be quick like lightning. You need to book those tickets three months before your visit. Why? Because only 35 lucky ones can get in every 15 minutes. And guess what? A bunch of those tour groups reserve tickets faster than you say the Last Supper. So, be ready to fight for your spot.

 

DID YOU KNOW?

Starting January 2024, they’ve upped the number of visitors, with a total increase of 110 admissions per day. So, you might have a shot at scoring those golden tickets.

 

GOOD TO KNOW:

Now, mark your calendars because, on March 20 2024, tickets for May, June and July 2024 go on sale at noon. Don’t forget that during the reservation process, you need to add all the names. And if your plans change, you can switch up the names up to 24 hours before your visit. Also, remember that you must change your reservation paperwork for the tickets at the ticket office 30 minutes before your time slot. Otherwise, you can kiss your reservation goodbye.

 

Remember, you can buy only a maximum of 5 tickets for the Last Supper. They cost € 15 per person, plus a €2 advance booking fee, as of March 2024. We also recommend you book a guided tour for an extra €9 per person (whisper systems included). This way, you will be able to learn more about this masterpiece. Guided tours in English are 4 times per day – at 9.30 am, 11.30 am, 3 pm and also at 5 pm. The opening hours are Tuesday – Sunday, from 8.15 am until 7 pm (the last entry is at 6.45pm), as of March 2024.

 

TIP:

If you cannot get tickets on their official website, try to book them on Get Your Guide or Tiqets.

 

Now you know the Last Supper painting secrets! Pin the Last Supper painting secrets for later!

the Last Supper painting secrets, interesting facts about the Last Supper

 

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY:

Uffizi gallery artworks, Florence. What so see in Uffizi Gallery

places to visit in Siena Tuscany, Italy


Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *