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The Last Supper : Learn composition from Leonardo Davinci

Updated on December 1, 2012

The Last Supper by Leonardo - My Take

It's useful for all visual artists to study old masters. Here, I tell you what I learnt from Leonardo's Last Supper. Not given to wild, wacky theories of conspiracy, I will just confine my comments to the area of art. And try to understand the master painter's composition.

(If you want to watch a video instead of reading this hub, it's there above. But I warn you, my voice is horrible!)

Please click on the images at the right to view them big enough. Here goes:

The Last Supper - Leonardo Da Vinci
The Last Supper - Leonardo Da Vinci
The grouping of threes
The grouping of threes
Perspective lines lead to Christ.
Perspective lines lead to Christ.
A picture of Stability.
A picture of Stability.

Placement Tricks

1. The Position of Jesus

Jesus is placed right at the centre of the picture. Naturally your eye will fall on the central figure. He is also framed by the window to form a separate portrait within the painting. He is clearly separated from the apostles by grouping them in threes, while He is self-contained.

2. Chaos and Order

Utter confusion results when He says, "One of you shall betray me." Now, the painter has to show the confusion while maintaining order in the composition. What did Leonardo do? Each disciple has a dynamic pose, an attitude of inbalance, but each is a part of a group of three in tight composition. See for yourself.

Another secret that I noticed, that I haven't heard anyone mention, is the zooming in to Christ. It's like one of those photos you see where the zoom causes everything to be blurred, but the central figure. The lines of the beams in the ceiling, the lines of the murals on the walls, all zoom to Christ. Everything else is dynamic, while the Christ is peacefully still.

3. The Triangle of Christ

A triangle gives a subliminal effect of stability. It's like a pyramid or a cone. Here, Jesus forms a triangle, while the disciples form high-tension shapes.

4. What, No Halo?

Why didn't Leonardo draw a halo around Jesus? He did even better. He made it look realistic; there's nothing unreal in this picture. He placed the sun behind Christ's head.

Also, the vanishing point of the perspective lines in this picture is also behind Christ's head. Wherever your glance falls in the pictuire, it will be directed to Him. The perspective lines, some of the arrow like hands, glances of the others, all direct you to Him. Some spiritual message there? God knows.

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    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      6 years ago from Chennai

      will do, Ken, thank you. :)

    • profile image

      ken 

      6 years ago

      wow! can u add more?

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      8 years ago from Chennai

      I'm happy to have done that, Mhuze, thank you! :)

    • mhuze profile image

      mhuze 

      8 years ago from USA

      Wow! I love this painting. You pointed some things out I had never noticed before. Very interesting!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      Yes, Anna. :)

    • profile image

      Anna  

      9 years ago

      the Numerical tradition that is exploited by Leonardo da Vinci to make the divisions of this composition not only immediately significant to his audience, but also to create mathematical order out of the dramatic confusion of the Disciples

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Just what I believe: Art is art only when it moves someone.

      Peace be with you, Michelle.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      10 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Okay, I'm now traveling through the ART hubs Kenny. LOL And this is a good place to stop and learn. Artists are indeed intelligent as well as perceptive. And if they are able to make the people who are watching the painting "feel" then they have (in my humble opinion) have succeeded far beyond anything. :) I like that...Christ peacefully still. He brings that peace to me esp. when I need it. :) Thanks Kenny.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thanks, In the Doghouse; how do I address you? Gimme some name. You are lucky; I haven't seen the original!

      Moonlake, I enjoyed your yard greatly!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 

      10 years ago from America

      Thanks for stopping by my Hub. Enjoyed your Hubs. Have a great day.

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 

      10 years ago from California

      Kenny

      Awesome observations. I remember going to the little chapel in Italy to see the original painting, it was such a sacred experience. I especially love how you pointed out that all lines lead to Christ, who is the center. The light that is reflected from the sun in the window also reminds me that he is the Son of God. Isn't classic art fantastic? Thank you again.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Please do, won't fail you! :)

    • C.M. Vanderlinden profile image

      C.M. Vanderlinden 

      10 years ago from Metro Detroit

      I will look forward to it (as well as your others!) 'Judith and Her Maidservant' is one of my favorites. Thank you!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Sure, Colleen!

      Will do her 'Judith and her Maidservant.' I have two more requests in queue, but will surely do it after that. And thank you!

    • C.M. Vanderlinden profile image

      C.M. Vanderlinden 

      10 years ago from Metro Detroit

      Another outstanding hub, Kenny! Any chance of seeing some of the work of one of my favorites, Artemisia Gentileschi?

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thanks for the appreciation, Thooghun! And many more for the request, Fine, Caravaggio next! Keep coming with those requests!

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 

      10 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Fantastic hub Kenny. Wonderful insight and tips! I, as has been previously stated, have never really contemplated that which made (or a part of) this piece of art so excellent.

      You wouldn't happen to have Caravaggio lined up :P?

      I'd love an overview of one of his paintings (they make me all tingly inside)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Ah, thanks, Compu-smart. Once I was an atheist, but I still loved this painting! :)

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 

      10 years ago from London UK

      Kenny, im not the religious type,but you always seem to make your hubs an interesting read..

      :)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Smiles and Light, Gemma! There's, of course, much more to this than what I showed here, but wasn't sure if I would bore my friends. And made a short hub.

      Thank you!

    • AuraGem profile image

      AuraGem 

      10 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Great hub! This painting has long been one of my favourites! But your hub made me return to it yet again and look at the more subtle technicalities - its working innards! Illuminating!

      Smiles and Light

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      No, no, please feel free to suggest any you like; good for my education, too.

    • profile image

      Iðunn 

      10 years ago

      you are really thoughtful. :)

      I might have lots of things I'd love to see from your perspective. (subtle warning) :p I shall try to stick with the true Masters though, when I make future requests since that was your stated direction.

      and... thank you!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      It's more rewarding to do requests. Atleast I'll get one committed view and comment, hehe! Please do request more, while I do 'Flaming June.' Thanks a heap, Iðunn!

    • profile image

      Iðunn 

      10 years ago

      you are too kind. really. hehe. but if I might dare, could I put in requests off and on? my first... could you do "flaming june"?

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Surely, O Great Muse!

    • profile image

      Iðunn 

      10 years ago

      oh! please do!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, kind friends!

      Violet, I'm hoping that everyone would start looking at paintings 

      from different angles, and thus find new ways to appreciate them. Yes, I teach, off and on. Hub pages help me reach out to more people, and that is very gratifying.

      Iðunn, I'm delighted at your delight. 

      I'm encouraged to more hubs like these now! 

       

    • profile image

      Iðunn 

      10 years ago

      I love this painting for many reasons. I'm delighted you hubbed it and I'm delighted to see it from a real artist's perspective.

    • VioletSun profile image

      VioletSun 

      10 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      I have never looked at art this way; you made me realize that placing the sun in back of Jesus head gave a sacred touch to the image of Jesus, among other details I wouldn't have paid attention to. Thank you for this hub and awakening the creative side of us with your other hubs. Do you teach art? If not, you would be a wonderful teacher!

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