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15 Facts About The Last Supper

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  1. Re: #14: Discussing cinematic tributes to the painting, the author left out an unforgettable scene in Robert Altman’s “M*A*S*H.” A classic homage.


    Re: #9: Legends about Judas’s Face —

    In Giorgio Vasari’s “Lives of the Artists” one finds a more entertaining tale.

    Vasari (an accomplished painter himself, who ranked himself among the greats) published his book of biographical sketches in 1550 and revised it later in life. He does not seem to have met Leonardo, but did know Michelangelo quite well. The translation I have includes in the introduction the description Vasari wrote to a friend of Vasari’s recent visit to Michelangelo:

    “He did not expect me and showed as much feeling as a father who has recovered a lost son. He threw his arms around my neck and kissed me a thousand times, crying with pleasure.”

    So, Vasari may not have had discourse with Leonardo, but undoubtedly heard stories.
    Vasari’s not-quite-eyewitness version is this:

    “It is said that the prior of the place [where The Last Supper was being painted] was very importunate in urging Leonardo to finish the work, it seeming strange to him to see Leonardo standing half a day lost in thought; and he would have liked him never to have put down his pencil, as if it were a work like digging the garden. And this not being enough, he complained to the Duke, and was so hot about it that he was constrained to send for Leonardo and urge him to the work.

    “Leonardo, knowing the prince to be acute and intelligent, was ready to discuss the matter with him, which he would not do with the prior. He reasoned about art, and showed him that men of genius may be working out inventions in their minds, and forming those perfect ideas which afterwards they express with their hands.

    “He added that he still had two heads to do; that of Christ, which he would not seek for in the world, and that he could not hope that his imagination would be able to conceive of such beauty and celestial grace as was fit for the incarnate divinity.

    “Besides this, that of Judas was wanting, which he was considering, not thinking himself capable of imagining a form to express the face of whim who after receiving so many benefits had a soul so evil that he was resolved to betray his Lord and the creator of the world; but this second he was looking for, and if he could find no better there was always the head of this importunate and foolish prior.

    “This moved the Duke marvellously to laughter, and he said he was a thousand times right.

    “So the poor prior, quite confused, left off urging him, and left him alone, and Leonardo finished Judas’s head, which is a true portrait of treachery and cruelty. But that of Christ, as we have said, he left imperfect.”

    Leonardo kicks ass.



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