The Table of The Last Supper

My main source when working on this triptych has been Leonardo da Vinci’s La Cena, the mural painting measuring 460 x 880 cm (1495 – 1498) in the refectory of the Dominican convent Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. I followed mainly the colour entanglement evolving in the movement continuity of Jesus and the Twelve Apostles. Although the original perspective construction shows The Last Supper at eye level, the raised horizon line of the perspective creates a glow of mystery around what happens on the table surface. In addition to the distance of the viewer from the painting, the visibility of the details is really poor due to the decay caused by the use of the technique of tempera applied to the wall on dry preparatory ground used by Leonardo.

After analysing several copies of Leonardo’s Last Supper, I took as model the one attributed to Giampietrino (Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli, active in Milano 1508 – 1549) and (surprisingly) also to Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio (1467 – 1516), a full-scale copy realised in oil between 1515 and 1520 on a canvas having nowadays the dimension of 302 x 785 cm (during the 18th century the upper third of the painting was cut off and the width was reduced) a painting that has been in the collection of the Royal Academy of Arts in London since 1821.

The current format of this canvas persuaded me to lengthen the horizontal proportion of my painting, getting closer of what could have been a table about 6m long in Leonardo’s mural painting. I therefore painted a close-up of the table in full size, imagining it as an orthogonal projection on a horizontal plane in a 6 meters long composition. Working in the spirit of the original proportions, I constructed the ensemble as a long triptych with a layout of 3x (80 x 200 cm).

While making this painting I revisited the book by Daniel Arasse on Leonardo da Vinci (Hazan 2011) and that of Victor Stoichita on The Brief History of the Shadow (Brève Histoire de l’ombre, Droz, 2000).

Stefania Kenley text (26.06.20) paintings (mai 2020)

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