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The hard work ethic of the Milanese spans the centuries. Their oldest traditions are steeped in methodical work in the fields.
It was working the land that the Milanese put to use both the technique of the tenacious Certosini monks and the hydraulic inventions of Leonardo da Vinci, who lived as a guest of the Sforza family for many years (1482-1513) and bequeathed the city with precious practical knowledge such as designs for irrigation methods in agriculture.

Leonardo's Last Supper at Santa Maria delle Grazie [detail]

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excerpt from page 61
In the 15th century the Dominican church and convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie was outside the medieval walls of Milan. It was in its refectory that, between 1495 and 1497, Leonardo painted

The Last Supper

Along with the Monna Lisa at the Paris Louvre, The Last Supper is Leonardo's most famous work. It is one of the paintings most often taken as a symbol of Western Art. It depicts the instant in which Jesus announces to the apostles that he knows one of them will betray him. Thanks to the sense of perspective the painting conveyed, the monks eating in the refectory almost had the impression they were part of the scene.

The sense of awe inspired by this masterpiece and the profound interest in it stem also from the enormous problems that its conservation has always presented. When Leonardo da Vinci painted The Last Supper he employed a technique different from the traditional one used to paint wall frescoes. The traditional technique was to divide the section of wall to be frescoed into small squares to be painted rapidly one at a time, while the plaster was still moist, so that the paint and the plaster would dry together. Leonardo chose a technique which resembled the one commonly employed to paint on canvas or on wood. This allowed him to paint more than once over the same surface, so that he could retouch details and thereby achieve the end result he had in mind.
This method did permit Leonardo to create a wall painting of extraordinary beauty. Unfortunately, it is also exceptionally vulnerable because the color painted on dry plaster did not stick as well as it would have done on moist plaster and is all the more perishable.
When this initial setback is added to the refectory's natural humidity, to the settling of the wall that supports the painting, causing cracks, and to the inevitable damage caused by the mere passage of hundreds of years... you will certainly understand why the conservation of The Last Supper gives rise to such heartfelt controversy.

nearest subway stations
Cadorna Triennale
reopened after complete restoration on May 28, 1999
open 9AM - 7PM;
Sunday 9AM - 8PM
• closed Monday

Lire 14,000, credit cards not accepted (free for under 18 and senior citizens over 60)

visits must be booked by phone ([+39] 02 89421146) and last 15 mins

All rights reserved
copyright © 1996-2003
Monica Levy, Roberto Peretta
copyright © 1996, 2002
Ulrico Hoepli SpA, Milano

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