The Restoration of the The Last Supper: The Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie

The Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan in Northern Italy is known the world over for one painting. “The Last Supper” is a masterpiece. It was painted by Leonardo da Vinci 500 years ago.

A major effort to restore it to its original form began in 1979. The project took over 20 years to complete. The image on the left is before restoration, the image on the right is after. Restorers during their work learned how Leonardo da Vinci applied the law of perspective to the painting. A hole for a nail was discovered around Jesus’s temple as they removed paint from previous restoration efforts. It served as the centre of perspective, a technique first applied by da Vinci. The artist structured his painting to perfection by drawing pieces of string from the centre. Jesus is at the centre of the perspective, indicating that He is the centre of the story being depicted. Jesus’s lips were thought to have been closed but after restoration it was discovered that they were slightly parted. “One of you is about to betray me”. There is a tension, a stir and whispering among the Disciples. It is as if the dramatic moment is captured in slow motion. Judas who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver was found to have been holding a money bag in his hand.

The last supper is the work of a genius, capturing a dramatic and chilling moment. Though long hidden, that ‘moment’ is now there for all to see.

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