The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci
The Last Supper is a Famous Painting
The Last Supper is a famous painting written by Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance artist, engineer, and philosopher. The picture portrays the events of the Last Supper, the final meal Jesus had with his disciples. Da Vinci had been working on the painting for about three years starting in1495, making an order from the powerful Duke of Milan (Goethe, and Davidson 243). Despite the fact that the traditional fresco paint was in a wide use at the time, da Vinci used a mixture of oil and other ingredients writing the picture. This caused fast flaking of the painting, as well as other external factors which degraded the piece of art badly. The Last Supper captures a wide range of emotions and revolves around a single statement in the Bible. Present paper will discuss the Last Supper in the context of the Renaissance and mark the similar traits that are traced both in the work art and in the given epoch.
The Last Supper is performed on a very large canvas, standing several meters above the ground. Depicted figures are very large, larger than the normal size of human beings. It is calculated that each of them equal at least one and a half normal size of a human. This aspect can be related to the cultural and political situation at that time. The large figures were meant to symbolize the transition from a low-culture to something diverse and big. A person had to look up to study the picture clearly. This process of looking up represented the state that people were experiencing at the time and probably even more exciting future on the way. “Its figures are larger than life. They exist on a plane that is greater than our own. This change is one of the clues of the High Renaissance” (Goethe, and Davidson 249).
Da Vinci also makes use of a method called chiaroscuro. This method was invented in Denmark in 1486, in the beginning of the Renaissance in Europe (Wasserman 23). This method is used to produce a visual distinction between elements in the work. A good example of the employment of this technique is shown in the images of St. John, Jesus, and the betrayer of Jesus, Judas. Judas is placed in a shed of darkness to reveal the darkness within him which resulted in betraying his Master and other brethren with whom he had served together (Wasserman 35). Renaissance was also the time of spiritual searches, anthropocentrism, and the rise of the perfect human image, thus the use of chiaroscuro assisted in the exposure of contrasts and different characters presented on the picture.
Renaissance was a time of great agitation and cultural revolution started in Italy spreading gradually but steadily in all the directions and parts of the European continent. The culture changed substantially as old habits were dropped in favor for new and better ones. In the painting, Jesus is the originator of the on-going agitation in the group which begins from the center (Italy) and spreads around to all the people in the group, each of them experiencing a moment of strong feelings and self-reflection. Jesus is supposed to symbolize Italy where the Renaissance began and spread in all the directions to the ends of the European continent (Wasserman 65).
During the period of Renaissance, the court of Milan had a motto reading as following, “Small Groups, Traitor” (Bambach 25). This concept is visible in the way the artist places the disciples into groups of three individuals. Each group seems to be consulting and showing emotions that are common to all the people within the group. The motto of the court of Milan believed that small groups of people were likely to come up with ideas that are conflicting with those of the entire society; hence they were viewed as traitors. Therefore, this painting perfectly mirrors the situation – the disciples form small groups and possibly discuss significant matters (Wasserman 70).  The use of color is also an indication of the era in which the painting was performed. Da Vinci favored the use of various colors in his art which showing the time frame in which he worked. Almost every individual is dressed in garments of different colors that differ from the dresses of neighbors. This aspect could show cultural diversity that started during the 14th century and ran all the way into the 18th century. During that time, there were a lot of diversities in the majority of the spheres of cultural life and new methods of presenting and performing literature and art itself were invented. This variety is clearly revealed in a number of colors used in the painting.
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The painting can also serve as an echo of the winged sun-disc. The sun-disc was a common belief in the ancient Egypt when people worshiped the god of the sun. The god of the sun was believed to be placed at the center with its symmetric wings emerging from its body in both directions. This figure is represented by Jesus sitting at the center and six disciples on either side. The disciples are seen aggressive as contrasted to the body which maintains a calm posture. This point can be further strengthened by the fact that the middle window in the background is bigger than the others on the sides. The illumination revealed through the windows further indicates the sun-disc belief (Bambach 23). The light is brighter than the background next to the window. There is also an opinion that the painting features three windows that are the representative of the future that the Renaissance was going to take the society into. The interior of the room is darkened, showing the current era of darkness, but which will open up into a new era with brightness and a better future for the people and cultures. The windows reveal bright light; a future to behold.
The Figure of God
Jesus is a representation of the superb future that Christians hope in the figure of God. In this painting it is depicted by his location in the central position with all the people addressing him. There is a character pointing at him, while the majority of others are looking at Jesus. The fact that they pay him attention could indicate the future that Christians and people from other denominations hope for in the beings they worship. In this case, Jesus symbolizes the future and everyone is looking upon him for eternal life. This painting, therefore, spirals beyond its era into the future. In fact, it spirals into eternity with no end (Bambach 23).
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci serves as a vivid example of the fruitful and bright epoch of the Renaissance. The use of high level of chiaroscuro to define characters is attributed to this period of history in general. Many aspects which can be seen on the picture show the political situation and the way of life during the High Renaissance. Both artistic devices and philosophical consideration of the picture point out to the fact that the art work belongs to this era. Significantly, the Last Suppercomprises different meanings and overtones so that spectators could find something that correlate with their thoughts and knowledge. Being a Biblical scene, the painting includes a lot of references to the Christian sacred writings, as well as anthropocentric traits which could definitely serve as the features of the Renaissance.