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Estere Kajema
Upper Sixth
Hallward's House

‘The Last Supper’ in Milano

‘The Last Supper’ in Milano

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Milano for a few days to see two great exhibitions — one of a fantastic Italian female artist Artemisia Gentileschi; and the second, located right next door to Gentileschi, Cezanne, one of the greatest French artists in the whole story of art. Initially, I was planning to write this article about Artemisia Gentileschi, but after this Friday’s lecture, I changed my mind.

Many of you know of the great mural painting called ‘The Last Supper’, or ‘Il Cenacolo’, created by the 15th century Italian Master Leonardo Da Vinci. As it is located in the middle of Milan, I felt obliged to go and see it, even though, I have to admit, I have never been a big fan of such ‘old’ art.

The moment I entered that cold, dark room, I felt shivers running up and down my spine. Right in front of me was a massive mural, 4x8 meters long. Leonardo spent three years working with ‘The Last Supper’, and it depicts an evening before Christ was betrayed by one of his disciples, the infamous Judas. It is a well-known story. ‘The Last Supper’ depicts the next moment after Jesus was told that one of the disciples, present at the supper, would betray him before the sun rose. It is not the story that is shocking, it is the reaction of the characters. The so-called ‘motions of mind’ are absolutely incredible. When I was standing in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, where the mural was painted, I felt such powerful energy coming from the painting. I could almost imagine Leonardo — barefoot and covered with paint — standing on a ladder and working, working day and night, and then again day and night, without any breaks and without any rest.

It is amazing, isn’t it? How much one can dedicate oneself to something. It seems impossible. Da Vinci did not eat, did not sleep, did not rest. He painted. Sometimes, Da Vinci would arrive, stare at his unfinished painting, and then leave, finished for the day. He thought about it. He dreamt about ‘The Last Supper’, it never left him alone.

The painting is so fascinating and so mystifying — it kept so many secrets in itself. For example, a saltshaker tipped over in front of Judas, is traditionally interpreted as a sign of bad luck. Art historians argue that Da Vinci is not trying to indicate the mischief of Judas, but is in fact suggesting his rehabilitation.

Not only is the mural an incredibly interesting work with many secrets and a heavy history behind it, but it is also an exceptional piece of art. It is so precise and so careful, it was executed with so much tenderness and so much love. Leonardo was one in a million. Seeing ‘The Last Supper’ was most definitely one of the most incredible experiences of my life so far, it took my breath away and I am looking forward to coming to Milan again, just to marvel once again at the great mural.

8 February 2012

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