Leonardo and the Last Supper

Leonardo and the Last Supper

3.83 (1,757 ratings by Goodreads)
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Milan, 1496 and forty-four-year-old Leonardo da Vinci has a reputation for taking on commissions and failing to complete them. He is in a state of professional uncertainty and financial difficulty. For eighteen months he has been painting murals in both the Sforza Castle in Milan and the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The latter project will become the Last Supper, a complex mural that took a full three years to complete on a surface fifteen feet high by twenty feet wide. Not only had he never attempted a painting of such size, but he had no experience whatsoever in painting in the physically demanding medium of fresco. For more than five centuries the Last Supper has been an artistic, religious and cultural icon. The art historian Kenneth Clark has called it 'the keystone of European art', and for a century after its creation it was regarded as nothing less than a miraculous image. Even today, according to Clark, we regard the painting as 'more a work of nature than a work of man'. And yet there is a very human story behind this artistic 'miracle', which was created against the backdrop of momentous events both in Milan and in the life of Leonardo himself. In Leonardo and the Last Supper, Ross King tells the complete story of this creation of this mural: the adversities suffered by the artist during its execution; the experimental techniques he employed; the models for Christ and the Apostles that he used; and the numerous personalities involved - everyone from the Leonardo's young assistants to Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan who commissioned the work. Ross King's new book is both a record of Leonardo da Vinci's last five years in Milan and a 'biography' of one of the most famous works of art ever painted.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 352 pages
  • 153 x 234 x 37mm | 685g
  • Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Illustrations, maps
  • 0747599475
  • 9780747599470
  • 405,887

Review quote

[A] richly entertaining tale of how Leonardo came to paint The Last Supper. King, who had previously written acclaimed accounts of Brunelleschi's Florentine dome and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, has an infectious relish for the gaudy, brutal and brilliant world of the Italian Renaissance * The Mail on Sunday * King draws attention to overlooked iconographic details such as the supper menu, and he profits from the mural's misfortunes in a brilliant history of its afterlife as restorers perform cosmetic surgery on it * The Observer Books of the Year * King deftly explains how Leonardo developed each element as well as his quirks and those of his patron Ludovico `"il Moro" Sforza. This account is a good deal more vivid than the ghostly fresco itself * The Guardian, Books of the Year * The story of Leonardo's creation of the work has now found an ideal chronicler in Ross King ... King has the gift of clear, unpretentious exposition, and an instinctive narrative flair * Guardian * Extraordinary * Sunday Times 'Must Reads' * Enthralling **** * Daily Mail * Mr. King gives us a gripping account of how that painting was created and how it represents, in his view, one of the few times in Leonardo's life that he managed to "harness and concentrate his relentless energies and restless obsessions" ... King deftly deconstructs the ways the painter broke with tradition and stamped a familiar and much depicted subject with his distinctive vision * Michiko Kakutani, International Herald Tribune * King writes evenly and engagingly ... We learn a great deal about the middle-aged artist, and his persistent fear of failing to complete commissions ... King deftly situates both his subject and the immense appeal of the work in our own day ... The book will bring new insights to all who have visited Milan, and will encourage others to make that pilgrimage * Church Times * Forget Dan Brown's reading of the painting - King shows expertly how perspective and patronage shaped one of the most famous paintings in the world * Sunday Herald *show more

About Ross King

Ross King is the highly praised author of Brunelleschi's Dome, Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, The Judgment of Paris, Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power, and two novels, Ex Libris and Domino. He lives just outside Oxford.show more

Rating details

1,757 ratings
3.83 out of 5 stars
5 28% (493)
4 38% (661)
3 26% (458)
2 6% (106)
1 2% (39)
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