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"The Last Supper" by Leonardo Da Vinci

Updated on April 15, 2010

The Last Supper

            The Renaissance was a time period where the values within the society were expressed through evolving art. Art became way to express a point of view on religion, politics and society because you could imply subtle symbols conveying anyone’s thoughts and opinions. A new religious theme of art arose from these ideas that portrayed concepts of humanism, depicting God or a holy figure as a human or at the same level as one, which had never been done before. Many artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci became famous in The Renaissance for creating paintings of this theme. Leonardo was questionable the most skilled artist of the Renaissance (Britannica 1, Cappadona 1). He was born in Anchiano, a village near Vinci, Italy in 1452 (Roach 1). However, his career started at the age of 15 in Florence, where he became the apprentice of an artist named Andrea De Verrocchio. Through assisting Verrocchio, Leonardo learned to paint, draw and sculpt. At the age of twenty, Leonardo left Verrocchio to begin his own career, as an artist (Roach 2).  One of Leonardo’s most famous pieces, The Last Supper, is among one of the best paintings in the world (Britannica 1). Duke Ludovico Sforza of Milan commissioned The Last Supper to illustrate Christ telling his apostles, “One of you shall betray me,” at his last meal, and to be put it in the dining hall of the Santa Maria delle Grazie convent in Milan, Italy (Britannica 1).Taking three years, from 1495 to 1497, for Leonardo to complete; The Last Supper is the most complex painting of the Renaissance because it maintains complete humanism by using symbols that can be interpreted in so many different ways (Ladwein 10).

            Symbolism played a big role in Leonardo’s art, and especially in The Last Supper. Symbols were a way to indirectly express personal perspective and beliefs. The Last Supper uses many symbols in order to maintain humanism. Leonardo uses the facial expressions of the characters to symbolize who Christ is, rather than raising him above the others (MacGregor 15).  All the apostles’ facial expressions represent distress or confusion because they are human and unable to accept that someone would betray Christ. However, Christ’s facial expression is calm and pure because he is the son of God and is forgiving of sin (Britannica 2, Lair 2). Symbolism is also used to slyly portray the Christian belief of Holy Trinity. All the apostles are depicted in groups of three, there are windows behind Christ and Christ resembles the shape of a triangle, all these symbols indirectly support God’s power but still keep the equality between man and god (Lair 3). Obviously, symbolism is continuously used in The Last Supper to portray an image of humanism where Christ is shown in regular human form, but symbols that when understood make it apparent that Christ is holy.

            Leonardo also used lighting and shading very creatively in The Last Supper, this really contributed to making the painting complex. Usually shade and lighting was used for just detail of clothing and positioning which Leonardo did, however Leonardo also used several different levels of shading to express the soul and personality of the characters (Olga 7). The most distinctive uses of lighting and shade are on Judas and Christ. Since, Judas is the apostle who betrays Christ a shadow is depicted on him signifying that he is an impure contaminated soul. Christ on the other hand, has this light coming in from the windows behind him signifying his purity and holiness (Olga 7). Using light and shade to represent a character’s personality also results in the concept of never truly presenting Christ as a holy figure. This idea plays a role in supporting humanism by indirectly showing Christ’s holiness.

            I believe The Last Supper is one of the most interesting pieces of art ever created. It presents many different aspects of the Renaissance Society. It also portrays Leonardo’s personal perspective on a lot of religious view points. The Last Supper can be interpreted in so many different ways which contributes to why it is so complicated. It shows history about the concepts of art, such as the beginning of Humanism, when the society started to understand God created us to view his perfection, and humans are part of that, from this artistic detail advanced drastically, leading to the research of the body(Cassirer 1). The Last Supper presents so much more then just a painting and it is amazing how much you can learn about the Renaissance from really evaluating what the picture shows.

            In all, it is obvious that The Last Supper is the most complex painting from the Renaissance. It presents so many perspectives and points of view, that Leonardo’s intended meaning remains unknown (Cappadona 8). However, Leonardo did depict a new art style. The new idea of presenting holy figures as humans effected the artistic style with the use of symbols to suggest personal perspective within the art. Art also had an impact on the society, with humanism people started to realize God gave everyone an equal chance, and social statuses began to deteriorate because peasants became determined to excel and succeed as wealthy people (Cassirer 2). History is full of connections, Art was influenced by the society of the Italian Renaissance but art also influenced religious and political outlooks in the society, such as the idea of equal opportunity between all men (Cassirer 2).

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      Penny Sworth 

      3 years ago

      I quote your Hub: “In all, it is obvious that The Last Supper is the most complex painting from the Renaissance. It presents so many perspectives and points of view, that Leonardo’s intended meaning remains unknown (Cappadona 8)”.

      Your Hub describes the painting as exactly what the naked eye can see whether you are into Art or not, whether you are into Classical Art or not. You fail to even attempt to ‘interpret’ Leonardo’s ‘Intended Meaning’. You present the painting as ‘so much more’ than just a painting, yet you fail to deliver the many ways, the many different aspects and the many different perspectives that you know, you can see. I get the feeling that this Hub has been edited to its present form because I can’t believe that HP would allow this version of your Hub to pass as worthy. It feels, looks and sounds incomplete, because you’ve stated the obvious and not personalised it by taking any kind of risk in stating ‘your’ interpretations’ of The Art or the painting.

      I see two symbolisms at work in "The Last Supper" by Leonardo Da Vinci.

      1. The Windows in the background of the painting depict a message of : ‘The Window Is The Lamp Of The Soul’ . (A) The onlooker/viewer sees what they want to see. (B) You will simply only ever see what the depths of your Soul reveals to you. (C) ‘Food For Thought’ - is what I see. On ‘Looking Through The Window’ I think of Michael Jackson. I can’t believe he’s no longer with us to make music. Thinking of Michael Jackson I think here is a man that revealed ’his’ truth and sometimes ‘the truth’ through song and dance (The Arts). On looking through ‘the windows’, I can see land on the horizon. Flat Land, Glaciers, Mountains, The Seas And Oceans always makes me marvel at the ingenuity and intelligence that has gone into building ancient and modern civilisations.

      2. The Title of the painting ‘The Last Supper’’, depicts a message of: (A) The Renaissance is/was/will be ‘The Last Time’ anyone has/will/would make ‘a meal’ of Art And Religion simultaneously. (B) A Bachelor Party or a ‘Gay’ Club. There’s no food on the table, no women and children in the picture, just 14 men - (if you include Leonardo Da Vinci himself) - 14 men all focussed on one thing, or 12 men all focussed on one person. Homosexuality was ripe during The Renaissance but who talks about that? All we hear about is this fantastic period of time when Art was great.

      Before The Renaissance there was Constantine The Great. During his reign as the first Christian Emperor (Emperors were always Romans), this Christian Emperor over a period of time managed to change all the pagan festivities, holidays, rites and rituals into Christian ones - which is now a world-wide thing.

      After The Renaissance came the first king to rule over both England, Ireland And Scotland alike. He was known as King James VI (6th) of Scotland and King James I (1st) of England and Ireland. This King James allowed one Authorised Version and Language of The Holy Bible to remain in print. This is now ‘the ‘unofficial’ official’ English Bible that is used and quoted from, more than any other version of English Bible to the point where people actually believe it’s more authentic than any other English Bible, and therefore more closer to ‘the truth’.

      However, both Constantine The Great and King James influence in the Christian Religion passed without a mention of The Arts, and passed without a national radicalisation of Art within The Arts itself. The Renaissance revolutionised the way we look at Art and revolutionised the way we look at Christianity. The Renaissance was the first and The Last great revolt into antiquity.

      Art and Education are two separately entwined subjects that can convey so many subjective, subliminal and subtle messages - Good or bad.

      Thank You!

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      Lucy 

      4 years ago

      I would have believed this site if maybe for starters you out the actual original painting in...

    • profile image

      karan 

      6 years ago

      Loved your view! Thanks.

    • profile image

      too 

      6 years ago

      Is there more, what is the source for this?

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