Last Supper (copy)

In Vienna there is A life-sized 1816 replica of Leonardo Da Vinci’s 1495 painting, Last Supper!

Why, Vienna ?

In 1805 Napoleon ordered the original to be transferred to Paris. (The original is located in Milan.) Fortunately, it couldn’t be removed so he ordered a copy.     Giacomo Raffaelli began working on the masterpiece in 1806 and completed it eight years later. By then, however, Napoleon was in exile in Elba. So his father-in-law, Emperor Franz I from Austria, (Yes, Napoleon’s 2. wife was an Austrian archduchess)  wanted to put it in Schloss Belvedere but the mosaic didn’t fit there so it ended up in the Minorittenchurch (English: Minorites Church, related to the monastic order of the “Minor” or Franciscan monks) near the Residence of the Kaiser the Hofburg

The original is great but the painting faded away during the last 500 !!!! year,which is a mural that was painted on dry wall rather than wet plaster and since 1517 (only 30 years after it was made) already started to show signs of wear and tear. The Milan painting is cracking and has had the bottom cut off with its fragile paint fading from light exposure and elements. Groups of 25 have to pass through a climate controlled room before entering and only get to look for 15 minutes max.

Maybe this copy in Vienna is a little better then the original in Milan                      (Sorry, my friends from Italy)

The Last Supper specifically portrays the reaction given by each apostle when Jesus said one of them would betray him. All twelve apostles have different reactions to the news, with various degrees of anger and shock. The apostles are identified from a manuscript (The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci p. 232) with their names found in the 19th century. (Before this, only Judas, Peter, John and Jesus were positively identified.) From left to right, according to the apostles heads:

  • Bartholomew, James, son of Alphaeus and Andrew form a group of three, all are surprised.
  • Judas Iscariot, Peter and John form another group of three. Judas is wearing green and blue and is in shadow, looking rather withdrawn and taken aback by the sudden revelation of his plan. He is clutching a small bag, perhaps signifying the silver given to him as payment to betray Jesus, or perhaps a reference to his role within the 12 disciples as treasurer. He is also tipping over the salt shaker. This may be related to the near-Eastern expression to “betray the salt” meaning to betray one’s Master. He is the only person to have his elbow on the table and his head is also horizontally the lowest of anyone in the painting. Peter looks angry and is holding a knife pointed away from Christ, perhaps foreshadowing his violent reaction in Gethsemane during Jesus’ arrest. The youngest apostle, John, appears to swoon.
  • Jesus.
  • Apostle Thomas, James the Greater and Philip are the next group of three. Thomas is clearly upset; James the Greater looks stunned, with his arms in the air. Meanwhile, Philip appears to be requesting some explanation.
  • Matthew, Jude Thaddeus and Simon the Zealot are the final group of three. Both Jude Thaddeus and Matthew are turned toward Simon, perhaps to find out if he has any answer to their initial questions.

In common with other depictions of The Last Supper from this period, Leonardo seats the diners on one side of the table, so that none of them have their backs to the viewer. Most previous depictions excluded Judas by placing him alone on the opposite side of the table from the other eleven disciples and Jesus or placing halos around all the disciples except Judas. Leonardo instead has Judas lean back into shadow. Jesus is predicting that his betrayer will take the bread at the same time he does to Saints Thomas and James to his left, who react in horror as Jesus points with his left hand to a piece of bread before them. Distracted by the conversation between John and Peter, Judas reaches for a different piece of bread not noticing Jesus too stretching out with his right hand towards it (Matthew 26: 23). The angles and lighting draw attention to Jesus, whose head is located at the vanishing point for all perspective lines.

The painting contains several references to the number 3, which represents the Christian belief in the Holy Trinity. The Apostles are seated in groupings of three; there are three windows behind Jesus; and the shape of Jesus’ figure resembles a triangle. There may have been other references that have since been lost as the painting deteriorated.

 

 

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