DA VINCI, Leonardo (1452-1519) – The Last Supper (1495-1498)
I remember visiting this picture in Milan some years ago. It is painted on the Refectory wall in Santa Maria delle Grazie. At the time it was undergoing restoration partly because of its age and partly due to the inadequate preparation of the wall for fresco and the unstable methods with which Leonardo experimented. Even then I was struck by the different attitudes of the characters round the table beside the serene figure of Jesus in the centre and all set against the indistinct Italian style landscape through the window. I would love to visit it again now it has been restored.
Jesus has entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the adulation of the crowds. This picture reminds us of the Last Supper, celebrated on Maundy Thursday, showing the dramatic moment in the Upper Room when Jesus tells the disciples sharing the Passover feast that one of them will betray him. Ahead is Good Friday with his death on the cross at Calvary and his triumphant resurrection on Easter Sunday. Here in the picture, amidst all the chatter of the disciples, Leonardo depicts a Jesus who was composed and in control. He knew what was ahead but was, nonetheless, willing to follow that path.