Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting 'The Last Supper' depicts a scene out of the Bible which was just before Jesus Christ's crucifixion. Leonardo da Vinci painted this scene in the 15th Century in Milan at the request of his patron, the Duke Ludovico Sforza and the Duchess Beatrice d'Este.
This painting can be found in the refractory of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. Measuring 15 feet by 29 feet, this painting took several years to complete. Leonardo da Vinci began the painting in 1495 and finished it in 1498.
The painting depicts the Sforza coat of arms in the arches above the ceiling of the refractory. It shows Jesus sitting at a table with all the twelve apostles having - what is known as the 'Last Supper' before Jesus was crucified. It was at this meal, that Jesus had in fact announced to his apostles that one of them would betray him. The painting shows the reactions of all his apostles right after this announcement. Right from shock to wanting clarification, all the apostles are either looking at each other or at Jesus.
This painting also showed all the disciples seated in such a manner as to face the audience. Prior depictions of this tableau had shown Judas sitting with his back to the audience. Also, Leonardo da Vinci does not show haloes around Jesus and his apostles, contrary to popular depictions of that period. In short, Leonardo da Vinci sought to humanize the characters from the scene by showing their reactions and emotions and showing them without any haloes.
Leonardo da Vinci was experimenting with a different style of painting. The way or the method in which this painting was made, clarifies that this is a mural and not a fresco. Instead of painting on wet plaster (which is a feature of a fresco), this painting is made on dry plaster. There were several limitations while painting a fresco and Leonardo da Vinci wanted to have more freedom to experiment. He used a mixture of tempera (egg yolks and vinegar) and oil paint. He then sealed the stone wall with pitch to seal the layer of tempera.
It is because of these particular materials used in the painting, that the painting has not been able to sustain the vagaries of time. Layers of paint began to chip off. Ravages of time and the subsequent efforts of several painters and historians to restore the painting to its former glory rather rendered the painting's beauty marred. However, in the most recent times, a body of experts spent over 21 years in restoring the painting. They used many modern techniques to restore the painting, such as infrared reflectoscopy and conversion of the entire building into a climate-controlled environment. The restoration work was completed in 1999.
This painting of The Last Supper recently became the focus of a very interesting debate due to Dan Brown's famous book called the 'Da Vinci Code'. The book said that the figure seated to the right of Jesus was actually Mary Magdalene. Critics stated that if this is so, then one of the twelve apostles was missing from the picture.