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“The Last Supper” – Iconography (Leonardo Da Vinci)

For those of you who are not familiar with the term iconography. Iconography defines the symbolism of an art work. It could also be the artist or a body of art depending on what exactly you are trying to speak about. It can also hold true to a traditional or conventional image associated with a subject and especially a religious or legendary subject. The Last Supper is an iconic piece  that has been the subject of great works of art for centuries. Leonardo da Vinci’s painting on the subject is the best known. It measures 15 feet X 29 feet and covers the northern wall of the dining hall at Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. Leonardo began work in 1495 and finished it in 1498. Vinci used a new technique, which involved a compound of gesso pitch and mastic, the pigment did not take well to this combination and by 1517 signs of decay had started appearing.

Leonardo successfully used perspective to give depth and elongate the scene, thereby creating an illusionary space. He drove a nail in te wall and attached a string to it, with this string he worked out the perspective at different points in the room. He gave a whole new meaning to this popular theme; a theme of sacrifice and betrayal. He chose a moment in which Christ informs the disciples that before daybreak one of the disciples will betray him, the shock and astonishment that the disciples felt was mirrored in their expressions. Da Vinci breaks from tradition and devises a formation that exposes the faces and expressions. This novelty, the concept and layout are totally new.

The Renaissance artists strove for realism and that is why Da Vinci broke from tradition composed his painting to give full expression to his characters. He also brought Judas back into the group, unlike earlier paintings where he is lurking in a corner. Leonardo did not focus on the villain of the story but on the emotions of other disciples. The surrounding has been made to look real according to that centuries day and age. The people and the atmosphere in the painting is suited to the era. The expressions and mannerisms of the characters should give the onlooker a glimpse into their mind. This was Da Vinci’s aim. Jesus at the centre of the group is calm and matter of fact, Judas is shrinking away and the rest of the group is agitated .

The dominant position of Christ and the space around him emphasis the concept of Trinity as his figure is triangular , the disciples are grouped together in threes. The bread and wine are symbolic of Christs  body and his sacrifice.


About fatimasiddiqi

Life is an eternal quest about knowing oneself.The deep root of failure in our lives is to think, 'Oh how useless and powerless I am.' It is essential to think strongly and forcefully, 'I can do it,' without boasting or fretting.I am one of those people who love the why of things.

2 responses to ““The Last Supper” – Iconography (Leonardo Da Vinci)

  1. Interesting Article. And nice piece of work. 🙂

  2. kleo ⋅

    art is the lie that makes us realise the truth

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