The Last Supper Painting

Leonardo da vinci

Da Vinci was an Italian polymath, genius, and artist during the High Renaissance. He was a famous painter during this time, but other aspects of his work endured throughout the ages.

historical overview

The Last Supper was painted on the wall of the dining room, otherwise known as a refectory, of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, located in Milan. It was commissioned by the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza.


The process of deterioration kicked in the moment that da Vinci started painting The Last Supper. Restoration started around 1726 and continued until well into the 20th century.

subject matter

Most of the composition is taken up by a long horizontal table seating Christ at the center with his twelve apostles to his left and right. There is a window directly behind Christ, highlighting his figure and importance.

subject matter

From the far left to the right, the first group consists of Bartholomew, James the Less (or Son of Alphaeus), and Andrew. The next group starts with Peter leaning over at John.

subject matter

On Jesus’ left is James, whose arms are wide open, illustrating a stunned reaction. Next to him is Thomas, whose only point of identification is his raised index finger. Lastly, we see Philip with a questioning expression.

geometric symbolism

The geometry used here indicates the idea of divinity, which includes the semi-circular shape above the window directly behind Christ’s figure.

color, light & texture

Da Vinci wanted to use colors that would stand out compared to fresco colors, so he combined various media like oil paints and tempera. The texture of the painting has been described as “grainy and fragmented”.

perspective & scale

Jesus’ head is the primary vanishing point for the perspectival lines, which are part of what creates the single point linear perspective in this painting.

copies of the original

Two important copies come from the Italian painters Giampietrino (c. 1520) and Cesare da Sesto (c. 1520). Both artists were believed to have been in da Vinci’s life and circle, possibly as his assistants.

conspiracy theories

One common conspiracy theory worth noting is the figure of John sitting next to Jesus’s right (our left) who has been reported to, in fact, be Mother Mary.