Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie - The Last Supper

In the refectory of the convent adjacent to the Milanese Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie, there is one of the absolute masterpieces of art. We are talking about the famous Last Supper, a wall painting obtained with a mixed dry technique on plaster, dating back to the years 1494-1498, and realized by Leonardo da Vinci on commission of Ludovico il Moro.

There are many curiosities about this work. Let's discover some of them.
First of all: the table. Leonardo chose to set the most famous dinner in the world in Milan in the 15th century. The table where Jesus and the apostles sit, as well as the utensils and tablecloths, were painted taking as a model those of the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie. In this way, the table of the Cenacolo became to all intents and purposes one of the tables of the refectory and Christ and the apostles dined together with the Dominican monks of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Let's move on to the technique. What few people know is that the Last Supper began to deteriorate a few years after its completion. Leonardo used a very scrupulous and particular technique to paint it. He used fat tempera after having spread with hot irons a mixture of mastic and pitch to obtain a completely smooth background, and a thin layer of white lead and yellow clays. Precisely because of the procedure used, the color dried very quickly. Due to the humidity of the refectory, the fresco quickly began to deteriorate and required restoration. It is only thanks to the restoration of 1977 that today we can admire the Last Supper. Those who intervened on the fresco before then did nothing but worsen the situation.

And what about the Apostles? As everyone knows, Leonardo was a profound scholar of astrology and occultism. For this reason, the Last Supper can also be read as a representation of the solar system and the zodiac, where each apostle is painted according to the archetypal characteristics of the astral sign to which he corresponds. According to this view, the apostle Peter is in the position of Jupiter and Sagittarius, while Thomas is instead painted in correspondence with the planet Mercury and the sign of Virgo. Judas instead would be Scorpio, in the position of Mars, an unfaithful sign that represents disintegration and death; for this reason his fingers are contracted, like the pincers of the scorpion ready to attack. Finally, Jesus would represent the Sun that with its divine light illuminates the scene and the universe.

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Cenacolo di San Marco

Museum of San Marco - The Last Supper of San Marco

The San Marco Museum is a Florentine museum located in the monumental part of an ancient Dominican convent. The fame of the museum, whose architecture is a Renaissance masterpiece, is due mainly to the presence of works by Beato Angelico, present in many rooms of the convent.

In the refectory of the guest quarters, another small treasure is preserved: the Cenacolo di San Marco. Frescoed in 1486, it is universally attributed to Domenico Ghirlandaio. In reality, the artist was at that time at the height of his popularity and full of commissions. Therefore it is believed that he only prepared the drawing, delegating the pictorial realization mainly to his brother Davide and to his brother-in-law Sebastiano Mainardi.

The representation appears serious and monumental, with the characters composed. This aspect makes us think that Ghirlandaio wanted to represent the moment after the announcement of the betrayal. With Judas, always from behind, who already has in his hand the piece of bread offered to him by Jesus and the agitation of the apostles already calmer. Judas has his arm raised in the obvious gesture of dipping the piece of bread into Christ's plate, derived from the Gospel story. And he has a cat near him, a negative symbol.

On the table are lined up glass bottles with water and wine, glasses, cups, knives, bread, cheese and various fruits. Among these are mainly cherries, which with their red color symbolically recall the blood of the Passion.
Behind the figures is a garden with fruit trees, cypresses and a palm tree, a symbol of martyrdom. Among the birds in flight there are two couples flying together, a symbol of the natural cycles that are renewed, and a peacock, a symbol of immortality.

Finally, the inscription on the backrest above the heads of the apostles is curious: "Ego dispono vobis sicut disposuit mihi pater meus regnum ut edatis et bibatis super mensa meam in regno meo". It means: "I prepare the kingdom for you as my father prepared it for me so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom". This is a phrase also used during Mass, which alludes to the transmigration into the Kingdom of Heaven.

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Florence - The Last Supper by Andrea del Castagno

Today we are going to talk to you about a little-known art treasure located in Florence. It is the Last Supper by Andrea del Castagno, which is kept in the Sant'Apollonia Complex.

The Sant'Apollonia Complex was once one of the great female monasteries of Florence. Currently this place is divided between the University of Florence, the military command and the Cenacolo di Sant'Apollonia Museum.
The Cenacolo di Sant'Apollonia was the monumental refectory of the Benedictine nuns. It was frescoed on an entire wall by Andrea del Castagno in 1447. The entire lower part of the wall, in particular, is occupied by a splendid Last Supper.

The scene takes place in a richly decorated environment. And every architectural element is taken care of in the smallest detail. The perspective setting is rigorous, accentuated by the geometric effect of the lines of the floor and ceiling. Above are depicted the Resurrection, the Crucifixion and the Deposition in the tomb.

The dinner of Jesus with the apostles takes place in an old-fashioned room, decorated with luxurious and refined elegance. There is a long table with a white tablecloth, which highlights the horizontal development of the scene. Around the table, the apostles and Jesus are seated on chairs covered with a cloth with floral patterns. All except Judas are on the opposite side on a stool. The placement of Judas separate from the rest of the apostles is typical of the iconography. However, he is usually located to the right, rather than to the left of Christ. His bearded figure in profile recalls that of a satyr from Roman mythology, from which Christians had borrowed many of the physical characteristics of the devil.

Inside the Cenacolo there are also other works by Andrea del Castagno, painted around the middle of the 15th century. There is a frescoed lunette (and its sinopia) with Christ in pity among angels. But there are also a Crucifixion and the sinopia of the Vision of Saint Jerome between Saints Paula and Eustace. On the south wall of the room there is also a Crucifix attributed to Baccio da Montelupo. While other fifteenth-century works coming from the former monastery are exposed in the antirefectory together with paintings by Paolo Schiavo and Neri di Bicci.

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