The Restoration of The Last Supper: Background information when reading Saving Italy

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Saving Italy

The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis

by Robert M. Edsel

Saving Italy by Robert M. Edsel
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2013, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2014, 496 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Heather A Phillips

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The Restoration of The Last Supper

Print Review

The Last Supper, completed by Leonardo da Vinci in 1498, is one of Western civilization's great cultural touchstones. Housed in the refectory of the Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, this late 15th century work was commissioned as part of planned renovations to the convent and church buildings by da Vinci's patron, Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan. The painting, which measures about 15 by 39 feet, depicts the desciple's immediate reactions following Christ's announcement that one of them will betray him before dawn. In spite of the emotional chaos that rings throughout the scene, the composition is ordered and serene. Christ's head is at the center of the composition, and the angling of the walls within the picture lead back to windows that display a view of hills and sky which frame the figure of Christ.

The Last Supper before its last restoration effortThe traditional method for painting murals was the fresco technique, in which water based paint is applied to fresh plaster, so that when the plaster dries the painting becomes an integral part of the wall and thus can last for centuries. Da Vinci chose not to use this technique, presumably because he wanted to be able to spend more time on the painting than the fresco method allows, and instead painted The Last Supper on to a dry wall. As a result, the mural began to flake and deteriorate just a few years after it was finished. By 1556, artist and art biographer Giorgio Vasari described the painting as "ruined". Over time, various restoration efforts were undertaken, but the attempts were often misguided, including the hanging of a curtain in 1768 which was meant to protect the mural; instead, it trapped moisture against the painted surface further contributing to the deterioration of the mural. The most recent stabilization efforts have often had to remove the work of earlier restorers. In addition to the normal ravages of time, the refectory was used at various times as a prison, and in 1796 it was used as an armory by French anti-clerical troops who deliberately damaged the painting.

Bombing damage to the refectory that could have been worse if not for the reinforcementsIn 1943, an Allied bomb struck the building. The Last Supper had been sandbagged and reinforced so that bomb splinters didn't strike it, but the explosive vibrations may have done damage. It was one of the Italian art treasures preserved by the Monuments Men, a special detachment of Allied soldiers whose job it was to protect the cultural treasures of Europe, particularly Italy, from both the Nazis and the ravages of war. (See review.) The Monuments Men worked to preserve the mural in the days after Milan was taken by the Allies.

After restoration efforts of Pinin Brambilla BarcilonIn 1978, Pinin Brambilla Barcilon began a twenty year restoration of The Last Supper, with the aim of permanently stabilizing the painting; and cleaning up damage caused by dirt, pollution and earlier restoration efforts. When the work was complete in 1999, it was redisplayed. The restoration, though popularly acclaimed, has generated its share of controversy due to the changes in facial shapes and colors.

This article was originally published in June 2013, and has been updated for the February 2014 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hunger
    Hunger
    by Roxane Gay
    In this penetrating and fearless memoir, author Roxane Gay discusses her battle with body acceptance...
  • Book Jacket: The Black Witch
    The Black Witch
    by Laurie Forest
    In The Black Witch, Laurie Forest introduces her readers to an immersive fantasy world where ...
  • Book Jacket: See What I Have Done
    See What I Have Done
    by Sarah Schmidt
    Sarah Schmidt's historical fictionalization of the Lizzie Borden story is a tsunami. From the ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Young Jane Young
    by Gabrielle Zevin

    From the author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry comes a novel that will have everyone talking.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Hame

Hame by Annalena McAfee

A rich, sultry novel about a young American fleeing a crumbling marriage for a remote Scottish island.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A F Out O W

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.