(ORDO NEWS) — The Last Supper was defaced and is one of the most heavily damaged and restored works of art in history. Only about 20 percent
left Leonardo da Vinci got it all wrong. Sounds like blasphemy to say the least, but it fell apart shortly after he drew it.
It was painted on the wall of a convent in Milan. Usually such a picture is a fresco. The artist applied the plaster in segments, and applied the paint before it dried.
Thus, the paint does not lie on top of the plaster, but is absorbed into it. The most famous example of fresco is probably on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but you see them everywhere.
Leonardo didn’t work like that. He worked on everything very slowly, often not finishing the work at all. Therefore, instead of a fresco, where you need to work quickly, he painted on top of the plaster. This allowed him to take his time, as he always did, applying numerous layers over the course of about three years.
For him it was a great experiment. Under the paint, he used the so-called “lead white” to make it brighter, but because of this, the paint did not adhere well. Since it was in the dining room where the monks ate, moisture from the kitchen got on it. Mold has grown between plaster and paint.
Someone wrote about it decades later and said “everything is ruined”.
There have been a series of unsuccessful restorations over the centuries. One person tried to repair the chips and covered them with oil. The next guy scraped it all off and repainted it. He then tried to clean it with chemicals because he thought it was a fresco, which damaged everything. The monks fired him.
It was also damaged when Napoleon’s troops used the room as a stable and threw bricks and horse poop at it. I didn’t make it up.
Charles Dickens once visited a monastery and wrote a very long Victorian quote about how “many of the heads are now real freaks.” He was referring, of course, to repeated attempts to “fix” them by repainting them. Later there was flooding, and then more damage from bombing during World War II.
The final and most recent restoration was completed in 1999, using modern technology. They removed all the add-ons and went down to what they claim were remnants of the original paint.
Therefore, all the light colors you see are watercolor used to fill in the gaps. Darker chips are supposedly what da Vinci painted with. There are several copies of works drawn by his students at the time, used in part as a reference.
The end result is heavily criticized by some, but I can’t say I know enough about it to have an opinion. I think that in every restoration there is someone who complains about it. There are people who are very indignant about where the sleeve of Jesus is, because in the copies it is at the table, but in the restoration it is on top.
You have to book a ticket in advance to see it and they only let each group inside for 15 minutes to control the humidity. At the sight of this picture, the hairs on the arms stand on end, but perhaps this is simply because she is so famous.
I don’t know what conclusion to draw. It seems to me that there should be some lesson here about experimentation or that even one of the most prominent supergeniuses in human history made mistakes – but to be honest, he was a really strange and fascinating person, full of contradictions, and I don’t know what can be made of everything he has done. Of course, it’s funny that one of the few paintings he actually finished ended up falling apart.
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