The Last Supper, 1800
Engraving. 525 x 933 mm
Works, relating to this work: Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1495-98, fresco, Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, ItalyEnlarge photo
During the feast of the Passover, Jesus said, “one of you shall betray me”. (Matthew 26, 21) Leonardo da Vinci’s (1452-1519) The Last Supper in Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, shows Jesus sitting in the middle with six disciples on either side. With their body language, hand movements and facial expressions, all twelve express their reaction to what has just been said. Judas, who was soon to betray Jesus, is seen as number three on the left of Jesus. Leaning across the table, he is clutching his purse; and in horror he has overturned the saltcellar on the table.
From left to right, we see Bartholomew standing at the end of the table. Then come James the Less, Andrew, Peter, Judas and John. Jesus is at the centre. After this we have Thomas, James the Elder, Philip, Matthew, Judas Thaddeus, and finally Simon, sitting at the end of the table.
In a letter to Thorvaldsen, dated 10.7.1811, the Danish painter C.G. Kratzenstein Stub (1783-1816) wrote about the poor state of preservation of this picture, saying that there was scarcely a recognisable stroke left of Leonardo’s The Last Supper. In order to preserve the fresco for posterity, a number of initiatives had been made in an effort to preserve it. Morghen’s print, in itself a reconstruction, represented the culmination of these initiatives.