No 31 History of one of the most Famous Paintings

Emerging from Atlantis to the Sanctuary of the Spirit
Letter No. 31



The mural painted by Leonardo after a long and arduous study and three years of intense development, was so new, so original that would revolutionize the art of the West. Despite the ravages of time and the elements (for humidity and strong tempera technique used by Leonardo Da Vinci) and restored several times, there is still the traits of stupor, age, fear and character of the apostles in contrast with the white tablecloth and the colours of their garments.

The masterpiece of Leonardo Da Vinci astonished the humanity with its splendid grandeur and in recent years has been promoted to explore more in terms of symbolic and semiotic, due to the writer Dan Brown's novel entitled The Da Vinci Code and equally by the movie adaptation of the screenplay for this novel. His reading and fame has caused, like contagion, increased the interest in books related to the life and works of Leonardo Da Vinci, paintings and his esoteric school of The Priory of Sion, and the legend of St. Grail, the pentacle and the number of gold.

On any given day, thousands of people come to the old monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, to admire a mural, painted 509 years ago that occupies a very special place in the culture of the world. The immortal Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, which represents the last supper of Jesus Christ with his disciples on the occasion of the Passover, has probably inspired more books, articles, poems and dissertations than any other piece of art, with the possible exception a portrait done by the same hand of the magician: The Mona Lisa. In truth, are known for the most of us the figures of Jesus and the apostles, as they appear in the dramatic painting, that the set would have been hardly more indelibly printed on our imagination if the work of Leonardo has a true representation of that biblical event.

Leonardo was 42 years old when Ludovico Sforza, duke of Milan, then the most powerful man in Italy, commissioned in 1494 to decorate the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the Duke had chosen the church's new monastery for their devotions , often stayed to take the midday meal with the Dominican friars in a vast domed chamber measuring 35 by nearly nine meters. For more than a century it was customary to decorate the convent refectories depicting the Last Supper, to remember the sacrifice of Christ to who started bread and drank wine. But no painter had been really fortunate to try so hard topic.

Although at the time the Italian Renaissance was going through its climax stage and the arts flourished in every corner of the sunny land of Italy, for Leonardo the painting was a secondary activity. Having already achieved great fame in his hometown Toscaza for his inventor genius, had entered the service of Duke as a military engineer, an expert on hydraulics and musician. When not engaged in designing machines of war or draw channels, studying mathematics, anatomy, dynamic botany perspective and the flight of birds. Most of his contemporaries thought he was a magician.

Leonardo was the magician who, along with the painter Leonardo, faced the north wall of the refectory where he painted the monumental figure of Christ seated at the table with his disciples. The murals from the same evangelical episode that can still be admired in Italy thirteen figures show relatively rigid and disconnected from one another, they say little of the human drama of the scene.


Leonardo spent long hours studying the peasants that he had come to his studio, and well covered sheets and sheets of paper with notes of heads, hands, clothes. Only then began to represent the scene that he wanted. Said in his book of notes: "One has to drink and turned to pose the cup in place. Another intertwined fingers and re-gazing at his neighbour. Another open hands with palms outward, increasing the shoulders up his ears and mouth expresses amazement.

Leonardo was not satisfied with mere appearances."A good painter should paint two things," wrote later in his text on the art of painting: "The first thing is easy, the second difficult, therefore, it must be expressed through gestures and movement of the members. The mural painted by Leonardo after a long and arduous study and three years of intense development, was so new, so original that would revolutionize the art of the West. The painting occupies fully eight meters and a half of the wall, and the strength of the effect is partly due to its colossal dimensions.

Suspended over our heads, the figures are almost two meters tall. They are sturdy craftsmen and fishermen of Galilee, seated at a table long and narrow as the monks of the convent of refectories today. It is a dusk from the top of the spring. In the home of a wealthy Jerusalem has prepared a farewell dinner. Jesus Christ has just utter the words: "One of you will treason me", which has resulted in his twelve companions the effect of lightning. These, grouped in threes, are four agitated clusters, two on each side of the master. Even we believe to hear what they say. Philip, the third to the left of Jesus, seems to protest: “You know me; I am innocent”. " It is clear that the Thaddeus fifth to the left of Jesus Christ is saying to his neighbor, dug Simon: I knew it! There are a traitor among us!

Peter is tilted toward his left side to ask to his companion of the table the Lord who is the traitor; impatient, he plays on the shoulder of the personage, while his right hand holds a knife. Hence we look at the snatched whole body of the astute fisherman and whom soon betray him three times. . John, "the beloved disciple of Jesus," is the most beautiful of the group. But that character is also woman's face, it may be Mary Magdalene, her companion (here's all the magic and mystery of the play) is the youngest and most beautiful of the group sat to the right of the Master, tilted his head in silent grief , Making an eloquent contrast to the rough impetuosity of Peter. But only Leonardo could paint it that way. Study in depth the principles masculine and feminine and obtaining the balance among them. Reminds us the tantra yoga, in which male and female join together to become something divine that transcend gender.

Here we can be asked: if Leonardo had some information of the content of the Gospel of Judas. Since the first reading the Gospel of Judas is revealed as a document clearly Gnostic. The Eastern Gnosticism was a philosophy that reached its greatest strength around the century 2 and 3 of the common era, and borrowed several elements of Judaism and Christianity. The later documents in the New Testament shows the first clashes with Gnosticism, but it is up to the century two when the Gnostic begin to produce dozens of "Gospels" and that confrontation occurs in all their extension. For Gnosticism, summarized, the world is the creation of an evil god, the god of the Old Testament, and human beings are emanations of the true God, much more powerful and ancient, divine spark trapped in corruptible bodies and unimportant.

Hence the marking asceticism and denial of the body is a key aspect of Gnosticism. It is only through a secret knowledge that reaches the true liberation and reintegration into the cosmos and everything. The document is a papyrus, dating from the fourth century, but is believed to be a translation of a Greek text of the year 187. Most of the biblical gospels were written, what is believed between 50 and 80 years after the crucifixion of Christ. It is written in Coptic, the ancient language of Egyptian Christians, the document was reportedly discovered in the late 70s in Egypt, in a limestone tomb very deteriorated. . Since then it has passed through the hands of several antique shops, many of them ignorant of their true importance.

The manuscript reproduced allegedly talks between the two men and pointed clearly that by betraying Christ, Judas was in compliance with a divine mission. It has also been able to determine that according to this gospel, Christ gave instructions to Judas to betray him with the following words: "Thou shalt be the apostle cursed by all others. You, Judas, offer the sacrifice of this body of the man that I am covered. In another hugely significant part of the manuscript, Jesus tells Judas: "Thou shalt be the thirteenth, and you will be cursed by generations, and come to reign over them

Despite the turmoil prevailing, the two halves of the set are beautifully balanced. On the other aspect, the four major groups are intertwined by their hands, forming a bridge from one group to another. Those hands point to the figure of the Master, calm center of that storm. His head is framed by soft blue light of the evanescent landscape that looks through the open door behind Jesus, reflects a spiritual excels makes that figure one of the most beautiful have been painted ever.

Matteo Bandello The writer, whose stories were later inspire some dramas of Shakespeare, was a student at the convent at the time that Leonardo was painting the mural. "I watched Leonardo," he writes, "who worked from dawn to dusk, a time without leaving the brush. Then came two, three or four days when they did not do anything but sit for an hour or two looking at the painting and tried to examine their figures. Leonardo had been engaged for many years to the new science of perspective, and in this case brilliantly solved the problem of creating an illusion of depth. . Go back to the viewer, away from the wall, and you will find that the room represented in painting, with its open windows, is an integral part of the same refectory. Follow with eyes the lines leading to the heart of the mural (the beams of the roof, the edges of the table) and verify that intersect in the right temple of Jesus, strongly appeal that attracts the gaze toward the master. Thus, for the monks who took the food in that place, Jesus Christ and the apostles ate not in the wall, but with themselves.

The illusion helps the care with which Leonardo painted objects even less important: the tablecloth, gold in a style that is still in Italy, the pewter dishes, glasses, in a word the same utensils that the monks were using in their table. Glossy red wine in the glasses, the bread seems fresh, and fish, fruit and the remains of ram tell us what has been the menu. The table of the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci is also one of the greatest died natures of the world.


Finished painting in 1498, the Duke rewarded Leonardo with a vast property. From the artist's death, which occurred in 1519, the famous mural has been reproduced in fresco, oil paintings, mosaic, ivory and silver. Long before photography was born, the masterpiece had been issued at all sites of encounter of people through engravings in black and white and gaudy chromium. Goethe dedicated one of his most brilliant essays, the English poet William Wordsworth sang "Grace serene, ethereal, love that splendid in the face of the savior." Ironically, to create their immortal works, Leonardo put in it the seeds of which had been destroyed. Usually, the murals painted at fresco.

This unique technique consists in mixing pigment with water to apply it directly on the cast fresh and moist, to absorb the paint, turns partly to this an integral part of the wall, and so the freshness of the color is preserved through the centuries. But the fresco painters must work quickly before the wall to dry, while Leonardo wanted to move slowly.

To that end, first applied a surface of white stucco on the plaster, then painted in tempera on dry surface, as if painted on wood or canvas. In a dry room this method might have given a good result, but the city of Milan is famous for its moisture. As the moisture condensed on the cold wall, the stucco that served as a basis for the painting began to decompose and form blisters that break up in flakes. They had not spent 20 years and visitors commented deterioration of the mural.

That was how lots of details disappeared forever that appear in old copies, for example, the salt cellar that Judas knock over with the elbow. In addition, the intervention of a series of improvised restaurateurs, many of whom are charlatans who wore "secrets"remedies, hastened the destruction of the mural. Was applied oil, new paint, varnish. Completed the Second World War, was made a full and thorough restoration of the work. Took off seven superfluous layers of paint before reaching the original brushstrokes. When complete, nearly all the splendid colors of Leonardo (the red robes of Jesus and Magdalene, the blue of the meandering river in the distance) they shone with a magnificence forgotten centuries ago.

The monastery, along with the pictorial treasure, is now owned by the Italian government. Although the current visitor sees almost no more than a ghost of what was the original light of Leonardo, the image of the Last Supper is complete. As much as it beauty has faded in part, the mural retains its grandeur and, defying the time and its destructive agents, continues to exert his magic power over the generations.

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