Last Supper a restoration nightmare

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

Leonardo's Da Vinci's most revered masterpiece, "The Last Supper," has continuously been under threat to damage almost since it was painted in 1498.

Last Supper Delle Grazia monastery
Last Supper Delle Grazia monastery

The fresco is located in the dining hall of Santa Maria Delle Grazia monastery in Milan.

The fresco considered the most famous religious painting in the world and the first significant example to Renaissance art depicts the dramatic moment when Jesus tells his assembled disciples, "One of you will betray me."

Santa Maria Delle Grazia monastery in Milan
Santa Maria Delle Grazia monastery in Milan

Over the centuries, it has suffered every imaginable indignity, including bomb damage in world war 2. In earlier military campaigns, troops were billeted in the refectory. This sacred place was also used as a stable, and a door was driven through the fresco.

Then came vandals of a different sort, as successive generations of restorers worked on the remains, each adding their interpretation of the damaged image.

restoring last supper
restoring last supper

From more recently mould devouring the remains of the masterpiece caused by a chemical combination of city smog and the resins and pigments of the painting.

It is always too simplistic to talk of getting back to the original when the original is often not there. Still, today we are one step closer to understanding Leonardo's intentions and seeing into the mind of one of the greatest thinkers who ever lived.

Map location of Santa Maria Delle Grazia monastery


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