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Da Vinci’s Painting Last Supper: Art of Being Ahead of Time Essay

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Updated: Apr 2nd, 2020

Introduction: What lurks in the background

When it comes to defining the key people in the Renaissance Era, one must mention Leonardo Da Vinci. His unbelievable genius, as well as his ability of being constantly ahead of time, makes the present day humankind stand in awe in front of him and his artworks.

Speaking of which, though Da Vinci created hundreds of them, only a few are mentioned as often as The Last Supper, which can be considered his crowning achievement. Though The Last Supper is often considered a work that stands on its own in the Renaissance Epoch, it, in fact, shares a range of similarities with the artworks of Andrea del Castagno and Domenico Ghirlandaio.

Composition: when the perspective defines the focus of the picture

The Last Supper features one-point perspective (Part 4: Application in Art para. 2–3) – the structure that may seem primitive nowadays, yet was a gust of fresh wind in the art of the Renaissance. It should be noted, though, that a range of artists were using one-point perspective at the time apart from Da Vinci. For example, one might draw parallels between Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper and the creation of the same title by del Castagno.

Both, in fact, feature the same one point perspective as the basis for each masterpiece to have been created on. It is not quite fair to compare the two works as fully equal pieces of art – after all, the materials, which Da Vinci used, were quite different than those that del Castagno; therefore.

The approach towards structuring the scene had to be different – the specifics of the material pretty much defined the strategy used by the artists. Nevertheless, both the fresco designed and created by del Castagno and the mural by Da Vinci featured the so-called one-point perspective with a single trailing point.

It is quite remarkable, though, that one of Da Vinci’s contemporaries dared venture even further and created his artwork in a three-point perspective. By adding the third component, depth, to the picture, Ghirlandaio managed to expand the idea suggested by Da Vinci (Albury and Weizs 4); nevertheless, it would be a mistake to consider any of the works more significant than the other.

Both Da Vinci’s and Ghirlandaio’s interpretations of the Last Supper deserve to be honored as doubtlessly great; however, whereas Ghirlandaio’s work was innovative, Da Vinci’s creation was clearly groundbreaking in its composition and the use of one-point perspective.

Stylistics: the new aesthetics start taking its shape

Defining the stylistic specifics of the mural, one must give credit to the staples of the era, which definitely shine through in Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. First and foremost, the mathematical perspective must be mentioned. The fact that Da Vinci used a one-point perspective has been stated above; however, the fact that the mathematical perspective added to the overall style of the picture should also be brought up.

Apart from serving its actual purpose of creating the illusion of width, the one-dimension perspective also set the premises for the mural to represent an illusion of space. Indeed, taking a closer look at the picture, one must admit that it does not create the effect of cluttered space, like a range of murals of the era did. Instead, it helped the audience realize that the “empty” spaces in a panting also bear specific meaning and may even render important messages.

The Last Supper, for instance, renders the anguish soaring in the air with the help of its spacious elements; compared to the thought provoking empty elements of the picture, the vapid lack of space in the artworks of Da Vinci’s contemporaries seems shallow and annoying.

Much like with perspective, the stylistics of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper was dubbed by a range of artists, and del Castagno was one of them. Del Castagno clearly attempted at creating a similar impression; however, due to the principle of simplicity chosen by the latter, his representation of the last Supper looks less impressive than Da Vinci’s.

Speaking of the stylistics of the mural, one must mention that it also calls for a comparison between the style that Da Vinci used to follow before creating the mural and the one that he was developing when designing The Last Supper. For example, this mural was obviously the first one, in which the artist created a sequence of moments to represent a historic event. Indeed, none of the characters in the mural are static – each of them is in a motion, and each has a specific message to convey.

The emotions on the faces of each of the Apostles are depicted flawlessly (Adams 305). Similar attempts have been undertaken by Ghirlandaio, with a less impressive effect, though – the emotions are less poignant in his representation of the event, and the interactions between the characters are shifted into the shadow, while the artistry of Ghirlandaio’s work appears in the limelight.

Religious and other kinds of symbolisms: a Renaissance mystery

As it has been stressed above, it was not that Da Vinci was the first artist to come up with the idea of visualizing the events of the Last Supper – quite on the contrary, there were a number of other artists, whose works also included their own interpretation of the landmark event in the history of Christianity. However, very few artists managed to work into their creations as many symbols as Da Vinci did.

One of the most controversial symbolic elements of the picture, the portrayal of the person on the right of Jesus has clearly warranted a solid discussion. Historically, the character in question is supposed to be the representation of Apostle John. However, the absence of the traditional masculine features and the obvious feminine ones in the face of this character hint at the possibility that Da Vinci actually depicted Mary Magdalene.

Such a way of deciphering the symbols of the mural is quite legitimate, since Mary Magdalene has played a major role in Jesus’ life. More to the point, the fact that there is no Holy Grail depicted in the mural may signify that Mary Magdalene is, in fact, the symbol of the Holy Grail. Some researchers state that she continued Jesus’ bloodline and gave birth to His children. However, these assumptions are hanging by a very thin thread (Adams 306).

Unfortunately, very few artists captured the symbolism of the Last Supper as well as Da Vinci did. Unlike his fresco, the one by del Castagno only features the traditional Christian symbols, without going into further details about the possible relations between the characters.

The imagery in the background, though, can be seen as the representation of the emotions that the characters, particularly, Judas and Jesus, were going through. Likewise, the mural created by Ghirlandaio features a rage of symbols, which relate to the events rather than the characters, though For instance, the trees in the background may possibly symbolize redemption.

Conclusion: reconsidering the impact

There is no need to prove that Leonardo Da Vinci was a Renaissance genius – his works featured innovative mathematical approach and structural specifics that were alien to most of the schools at the time. However, Da Vinci’s artworks, especially the ones that touched upon a range of religious subjects, had a range of stylistic, symbolic and compositional elements in common.

Even though a number of points of contact have been found in the course of the analysis of The Last Supper created by Leonardo Da Vinci, Andrea del Castagno and Domenico Ghirlandaio, the works of the former were still a few steps ahead of his most talented contemporaries.

By incorporating an entirely new approach towards the perspective, the overall stylistics and the symbolism of the mural, Da Vinci managed to create a masterpiece that would delight both art connoisseurs and general audience from the renaissance Era to the Post Postmodernist epoch.

Annotated Bibliography

Adams, Laurie Schneider. Italian Renaissance Art. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. 2013. Print.

Devoted to a range of issues regarding the Renaissance culture Adams’s book provided a very brief overview of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Nevertheless, it served its purpose well by outlining the course of the further research by mentioning the key points of interest. According to Adams, the focus of discussion of Da Vinci’s Last Supper should be on its stylistic specifics, as well as the artistry. The key strength of the source concerns its ability to deliver the necessary data in a very concise yet informative manner.

The book also has its flaws, though. The key one is the lack of analysis of the works in the context of the epoch. Instead, Schneider focuses on the artists and a general description of the period pieces. While Adams does mention the religious context, the overall interpretation seems very vague. Nevertheless, the veracity of the information does not leave any room for doubt. Thus, the source was very useful as the starting point of the research.

Albury, William R. and George M. Weizs. “.” Journal of Religion and Society 11.1 (2009), 1–17. Web.

Albury and Weizs’s article allows for taking a closer look at the symbolism in The Last Supper interpretations. The article shows the links between the era and the messages in The Last Super frescos. Albury and Weizs point at the obvious symbols, as well as help discover entirely new ones. Thus, the links between the three artworks are clarified.

The stylistic choices are also explained. According to the authors, the one-point perspective was predetermined by the necessity to focus on the Christ. The source can be considered very credible. It comes from a peer-reviewed journal and has been published recently. The source was used in comparing the three artworks. Albury and Weizs have shed some light on the symbols in the frescos.

. The Brown University. Web.

Though this source is most likely to be overlooked, it provides a plethora of useful information. Offering a very short yet all-embracive overview of the era, it points at the stylistics of the Renaissance Epoch art. The site lists the works that have become the staple of the Renaissance, including The Last Supper, Saint Jerome in His Study, etc. More importantly, it pays a special attention to The Last Supper. The detailed the description of the fresco, as well as the technique, which it was created with, makes this source very valuable.

The credibility of the source is obvious – being stored on an educational site, it must belong to a solid establishment. Indeed, the data is provided by the Brown University. The source was crucial to the literature review. It helped outline the major stylistic specifics of The last Supper. Moreover, it helped compare the work with a range of Renaissance pieces of art.

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