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The original of Milano – Förderverein

The original of Milano

The last supper fresco shows the scene according to Matthew 26,21, when Jesus speaks to his disciples: “I’m telling you: One of you shall betray me”

The last supper fresco shows the scene according to Matthew 26,21, when Jesus speaks to his disciples: “I’m telling you: One of you shall betray me”. This motif has been implemented very often throughout the history of art, so that Leonardo da Vinci was not the first artist who represented this moment. During his lifetime there was a fresco ‘The last supper’ by Domenico Ghirlandaio in Florence. It is assumed, that Leonardo knew this work and that it was the direct model for his own work.

The duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza engaged Leonardo with a production of a motif of the last supper for the refectory of the Milan monastery Santa Maria delle Grazie. It was going to become the absolute highlight of his artistic creation. The Master realized this mission in the years from 1494 until 1498. Here he used the painting technique ‘al secco’, on the dry underground (in opposite to ‘al fresco’, on the wet plaster) with tempera colors. Unfortunately the wall was moist all the time, so parts of the colour were drawn by the wall. During the lifetime of da Vinci the first damages of the painting were visible. The paint was peeling and there were little cracks in the wall. This was only the beginning of the process of decay. Soon a door was built into the wall just below the illustration of Christ and so part of the painting was destroyed. Several efforts of restauration were done and on the other hand further damage. In the year 1796 troops of  Napoleon’s army used the refectory as a horse stable und an armoury. Soldiers defiled the painting and clew out the eyes of the figures.

World War II afflicted more damage to the painting. In the August of 1943 an aereal bomb bunged the refectory. The northern wall with the painting and the southern wall were left standing. The other walls broke down.  Some days before monks had covered the painting with sandbags. The basic substance miraculously withstood the bombs.

Meanwhile the state of things has successfully been prevented from further damage. Announced visits of the painting are possible. In 1983 the Dominican Church ‘Santa Maria delle Grazie’ was declared World Cultural Heritage.