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Leonardo: The Last Supper

Barcilon, Pinin Brambilla/Pietro C. Marani

6 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0226504271 / ISBN 13: 9780226504278
Published by University Of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2001
Used Condition: Very Good Hardcover
From Monroe Street Books (Middlebury, VT, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

440 pages. Hardcover with dust jacket and slipcase. Full color and black & white illustrations. Beautiful copy with light sunning to dust jacket spine, Clean, tight copy. Record # 458394. Bookseller Inventory # 458394

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Leonardo: The Last Supper

Publisher: University Of Chicago Press, Chicago

Publication Date: 2001

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good

About this title

Synopsis:

Leonardo's Last Supper, one of the most important works of the Renaissance if not all of Western art, was painted between 1494 and 1498 in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. From the moment that the prior at the monastery complained to Leonardo that the work was taking too long, the Last Supper has endured centuries of controversy, neglect, and difficulty. Leonardo, The Last Supper, translated from the Italian, is the definitive document of the recently completed project to reverse these centuries of decline by restoring the painting and preserving it in a manner that generations of conservators have failed to do.

The technical problems with the Last Supper began as soon as Leonardo started to paint it. He jettisoned the traditional fresco technique of applying paint to wet plaster, a method unsuited to Leonardo's slow and thorough execution, and created the work instead with an experimental technique that involved painting directly on the dry plaster. With this renegade method, Leonardo rendered one of the most enduring painting techniques volatile and unstable. Added to this initial complication have been centuries of pollution, tourists, candle smoke, and the ravages of age, not to mention food fights in the refectory staged by Napoleonic soldiers and Allied bombs in 1943. By the middle of the twentieth century, the Last Supper was in desperate need of a complete restoration.

Pinin Brambilla Barcilon was chosen to head this twenty-year project, and Leonardo, The Last Supper is the official record of her remarkable effort. It first documents the cleaning and removal of the overpainting performed in the other attempts at restoration and then turns to Barcilon's meticulous additions in watercolor, which were based on Leonardo's preparatory drawings, early copies of the painting, and contemporary textual descriptions. This book presents full-scale reproductions of details from the fresco that clearly display and distinguish Leonardo's hand from that of the restorer. With nearly 400 sumptuous color reproductions, the most comprehensive technical documentation of the project by Barcilon, and an introductory essay by art historian and project codirector Pietro C. Marani that focuses on the history of the fresco, Leonardo, The Last Supper is an invaluable historic record, an extraordinarily handsome book, and an essential volume for anyone who appreciates the beauty, technical achievements, and fate of Renaissance painting.

Review:

Leonardo's The Last Supper, painted in tempera on the damp walls of a dining room for the Dominican monks of Santa Maria della Grazie in Milan, began falling apart in his lifetime. Five centuries of dust, mildew, and bad treatment (including vandalism by French 18th-century troops, Allied bombs in World War II, and various ham-handed attempts at cleaning and repainting) have only made things worse. The most recent restoration team went about the job with surgical precision, beginning in 1977. While much of the original is irrevocably lost, the fragments of paint that remain still form a deeply evocative and exquisitely rendered composition, and many of the faces have gained increased visibility and plasticity. More than 200 full-color pages painstakingly document every inch of the ghostly surface. Beginning with full views, the focus narrows until each image is presented in its actual size, interleaved with an all-black page for heightened clarity. To look so closely at the fragile network of paint flecks is to be acutely aware of the mystery of perception--that these flecks of color allow us to read each apostle's mood and personality as they reacted to Christ's words ("One of you will betray me"). The commentary, printed in pleasingly large type and fluidly translated from the Italian, is segregated from the major reproductions, allowing the fresco to speak for itself. An introductory text traces the history of the painting and its restorations, as well as shifts in critical opinion. In a lengthy, generously illustrated section at the back of the book, chief curator Pinin Brambilla Barcilon explains how she restored each portion of the masterwork. While this may be more than the casual reader cares to know, extraordinary attention to detail is one of the hallmarks of both the project and the book. --Cathy Curtis

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