Leonardo and the Last Supper [NOOK Book]


Early in 1495, Leonardo da Vinci began work in Milan on what would become one of history’s most influential and beloved works of art--The Last Supper. After a dozen years at the court of Lodovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, Leonardo was at a low point personally and professionally: at 43, in an era when he had almost reached the average life expectancy, he had failed, despite a number of prestigious commissions, to complete anything that truly fulfilled his astonishing promise. His latest failure was a giant ...
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Leonardo and the Last Supper

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Early in 1495, Leonardo da Vinci began work in Milan on what would become one of history’s most influential and beloved works of art--The Last Supper. After a dozen years at the court of Lodovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, Leonardo was at a low point personally and professionally: at 43, in an era when he had almost reached the average life expectancy, he had failed, despite a number of prestigious commissions, to complete anything that truly fulfilled his astonishing promise. His latest failure was a giant bronze horse to honor Sforza’s father: his 75 tons of bronze had been expropriated to be turned into cannon to help repel a French invasion of Italy. The commission to paint The Last Supper in the refectory of a Dominican convent was a small compensation, and his odds of completing it were not promising: Not only had he never worked on a painting of such a large size--15’ high x 30’ wide--but he had no experience in the extremely difficult medium of fresco.

In his compelling new book, Ross King explores how--amidst war and the political and religious turmoil around him, and beset by his own insecurities and frustrations--Leonardo created the masterpiece that would forever define him. King unveils dozens of stories that are embedded in the painting. Examining who served as the models for the Apostles, he makes a unique claim: that Leonardo modeled two of them on himself. Reviewing Leonardo’s religious beliefs, King paints a much more complex picture than the received wisdom that he was a heretic. The food that Leonardo, a famous vegetarian, placed on the table reveals as much as do the numerous hand gestures of those at Christ’s banquet.

As King explains, many of the myths that have grown up around The Last Supper are wrong, but its true story is ever more interesting. Bringing to life a fascinating period in European history, Ross King presents an original portrait of one of history’s greatest geniuses through the lens of his most famous work.

Winner of the 2012 Governor General's Literary Award for Nonfiction

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  • Leonardo and the Last Supper
    Leonardo and the Last Supper  

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Everyone knows the name of Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) and even bright middle schoolers can identify The Last Supper as his work, but beyond that rudimentary knowledge, most of us go blank. Ross King's new illustrated biographical monograph first give us the basics and then goes beyond to explore the hidden layers, some of them literal, in this mural masterpiece and its maker. King's exposition presents a Da Vinci far more robust, unruly and unreliable than great artists are supposed to be. He places the creation of the paintings within the context of its commissioning and protracted execution and delves with scrupulous care into the expressions and gestures of the biblical diners. His generous illustrated account is riveting: Even skeptics will find themselves roped in by his attention to telling details. Take that, Da Vinci Code!

The Washington Post - Michael S. Roth
…Ross King's book embeds the grand work in the intersecting story lines of 15th-century political, military and art history, setting the stage with verve…The painting has fascinating stories to tell, and King is an excellent guide to the biblical sources and artist's choices that invest the work with so much power…By casting light on the historical context of The Last Supper, King has enabled us to see the painting anew.
The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
…gives us a gripping account of how [the] painting was created and how it represents, in [King's] view, one of the few times in Leonardo's life that he managed to "harness and concentrate his relentless energies and restless obsessions." Mr. King deftly situates the painting in a historical context—against political events in Italy at the time, religious attitudes of the day and contemporaneous developments in art—and also places it in the context of Leonardo's career, deconstructing the ways the painter broke with tradition and stamped a familiar and much depicted subject with his distinctive vision…[King] does a fluent and insightful job of weaving together all his research.
Publishers Weekly
Detail obsessed, easily distracted, and a notorious deadline-buster, Leonardo da Vinci was able to complete one of his two best works in just three years—all against a backdrop of war and occupation of Milan. King’s (Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling) detailed accounting of the political situation in 15th-century Italy and how it informs our understanding of The Last Supper is interspersed with analysis of history’s many interpretations of the painting, including the “typical crackpottery that follows Leonardo.” The book addresses such topics as the groupings of the apostles and their hand placement; readings of the painting as glorifying faith; and whether the figure next to Jesus depicts the apostle John or Mary Magdalene. King provides a fascinating look at the artist’s life, including his reputation among his patrons as unreliable, and his relationships with those he worked with and for—including a young boy named Giacomo, who “held a great physical attraction for Leonardo.” However, King’s speculations are never salacious; rather, they help place Leonardo’s life into the context of Florence’s history of sexual tolerance and subsequent religious crackdowns. Though some of King’s political explorations and discussions of symbolism can drag, the book proves most lively when tackling common misconceptions about the painting, with The Da Vinci Code coming in for special criticism. 16-page color insert and b&w reproductions. Agent: Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
“King gives us a gripping account of how that painting was created...[and] deftly situates the painting in a historical context… [a] fascinating volume.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times


“[A] lively history.”—The New Yorker

“The story of Leonardo’s creation of the work has now found an ideal chronicler in Ross King, author of Brunelleschi’s Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling, which have won plaudits for their concise, close-focus study of great renaissance achievements. King has the gift of clear, unpretentious exposition, and an instinctive narrative flair” —Charles Nicholl, Guardian


Leonardo and the Last Supper is meticulously researched, gracefully written and fascinating to read.”—The Cleveland Plain Dealer


“Ross King, an English novelist and historian, tells the story, in Leonardo and the Last Supper, of the improbable creation of one of art's greatest masterpieces. With a fiction writer's feel for character, King depicts a supremely ingenious, enigmatic, stubbornly independent, and underachieving Leonardo, and, with a nonfiction writer's skill, he sets the sketch against a richly described background of a society in creative and often violent ferment.”—Philadelphia Inquirer


"King brings to precise life a fully dimensional, irresistibly audacious, and wizardly Leonardo and his powerfully affecting, miraculously surviving mural. Readers will love the dramatic, vivid, and brainy mix of biography and art history King cooks up” – Booklist, starred review 

“King provides a fascinating look at the artist’s life, including his reputation among his patrons as unreliable, and his relationships with those he worked with and for—including a young boy named Giacomo, who ‘held a great physical attraction for Leonardo.’ However, King’s speculations are never salacious; rather, they help place Leonardo’s life into the context of Florence’s history of sexual tolerance and subsequent religious crackdowns…the book proves most lively when tackling common misconceptions about the painting, with The Da Vinci Code coming in for special criticism.” – Publishers Weekly

“An absorbing study of a disappearing masterpiece…King places the painting in its political, social and artistic context, describing both the meaning of da Vinci’s work and the violent 15th-century Italian world that spawned it…King plumbs the painting’s religious, secular, psychological and political meanings, registered in the facial expressions and hand positions, the significance of the food on the table and, most fascinatingly, the salt spilled by the betraying Judas…King’s book is an impressive work of restoration—the author helps readers see this painting for the first time.” – Kirkus Review, starred

“A fascinating and in-depth story of one of the world’s most famous works of art that will appeal to general readers as well as academics. Highly recommended.” – Library Journal, starred review

“The colorful back story is restored and revealed in Leonardo and The Last Supper, a new book by British author Ross King that quickly dispenses with the outlandish myths spread by The Da Vinci Code novel — while showing that history is in many ways more surprising than Dan Brown’s popular fiction.” – New York Post

 "The story of Leonardo's creation has now found an ideal chronicler in Ross King, author of Brunelleschi's Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, which have won plaudits for their concise, close-focus study of great renaissance achievements. Clear, unpretentious exposition."  – The Guardian

Library Journal
King (Brunelleschi's Dome) celebrates Leonardo da Vinci in this engaging biography centered on the artist's creation of one of his masterpieces, The Last Supper, in Santa Maria della Grazia in Milan. He touches upon some of the major forces of Leonardo's time: Lodovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, who commissioned the painting to glorify the Sforza dynasty; Charles XIII of France, whose troops invaded and, for a time, ruled parts of Italy; as well as the ecclesiastic fabric of Renaissance life, which supported the creation of many great works of art. King explores Leonardo's painting techniques and explores many factors that may have figured into its creation such as the divinely inspired proportion of the golden section (knowledge derived from Leonardo's relationship with the mathematician Luca Pacioli) as well as an explication of the various poses of the figures in the painting itself, which King speculates might be based on gestures commonly used by 15th-century Italians. VERDICT A fascinating and in-depth story of one of the world's most famous works of art that will appeal to general readers as well as academics. Highly recommended.—Ellen Bates, New York
Kirkus Reviews
An absorbing study of a disappearing masterpiece. King (Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven, 2010, etc.) tells the story of the most famous painting no one has really seen, at least since the 16th century: The Last Supper, the masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci that began deteriorating almost as soon as the paint dried. King places the painting in its political, social and artistic context, describing both the meaning of da Vinci's work and the violent 15th-century Italian world that spawned it. Proof that art, like life, sometimes happens when you're making other plans, da Vinci's greatest painting came about because his dream project--an enormous horse-and-rider sculpture honoring the father of his patron, Lodovico Sforza--was scuttled when Italy needed the bronze for war. For the next two years, da Vinci painted the scene of Jesus and his disciples on the wall of a monastery. In its masterful use of perspective, complementary color and achievement of lifelike detail, it marked a turning point for Western art. King plumbs the painting's religious, secular, psychological and political meanings, registered in the facial expressions and hand positions, the significance of the food on the table and, most fascinatingly, the salt spilled by the betraying Judas. (And no, Dan Brown, Mary Magdalene is not in it.) Alas, da Vinci's ignorance of the fresco technique meant the pigments did not bond to the plaster, and the paint would begin flaking within years. As early as 1582, it was described as being "in a state of total ruin." Thankfully, King's book is an impressive work of restoration--the author helps readers see this painting for the first time.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802778802
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 10/30/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 101,694
  • File size: 8 MB

Meet the Author

ROSS KING is the author of The Judgment of Paris, Brunelleschi's Dome, Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, and the novels Ex-Libris and Domino. Born and raised in Canada, he now lives near Oxford, England.
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Read an Excerpt

Leonardo and The Last Supper



Copyright © 2012 Ross King
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8027-1705-4

Chapter One

The Bronze Horse

The astrologers and fortune-tellers were agreed: signs of the coming disasters were plain to see. In Puglia, down in the heel of Italy, three fiery suns rose into the sky. Farther north, in Tuscany, ghost riders on giant horses galloped through the air to the sound of drums and trumpets. In Florence, a Dominican friar named Girolamo Savonarola received visions of swords emerging from clouds and a black cross rising above Rome. All over Italy, statues sweated blood and women gave birth to monsters.

These strange and troubling events in the summer of 1494 foretold great changes. That year, as a chronicler later recounted, the Italian people suffered "innumerable horrible calamities." Savonarola predicted the arrival of a fierce conqueror from across the Alps who would lay waste to Italy. His dire prophecy was fulfilled soon enough. That September, King Charles VIII of France entered an Alpine pass with an army of more than thirty thousand men, bent on marching through Italy and seizing the throne of Naples. The scourge of God made an unprepossessing sight: the twenty-four-year-old king was short, myopic, and so ill proportioned that in the words of the chronicler Francesco Guicciardini, "he seemed more like a monster than a man." His ungainly appearance and agreeable nickname, Charles the Affable, belied the fact that he was equipped with the most formidable array of weapons ever seen in Europe.

Charles VIII's first stop was the Lombard town of Asti, where, after pawning jewels to pay his troops, he was greeted by his powerful Italian ally, Lodovico Sforza, the ruler of Milan. Savonarola may have prophesied Charles's expedition, but it was Lodovico who had summoned him across the Alps. The forty-two-year-old Lodovico, known because of his dark complexion as Il Moro (the Moor), was as handsome, vigorous, and cunning as the French king was feeble and ugly. He had turned Milan—the duchy over which he had become the de facto ruler in 1481 after usurping his young nephew Giangaleazzo—into what the Holy Roman emperor, Maximilian, called "the most flourishing realm in Italy." But Lodovico's head lay uneasy. The father-in-law of the feckless Giangaleazzo was Alfonso II, the new king of Naples, whose daughter Isabella deplored the usurpation and did not scruple to tell her father of her sufferings. Alfonso had an unsavory reputation. "Never was any prince more bloody, wicked, inhuman, lascivious, or gluttonous than he," declared a French ambassador. Lodovico was told to beware assassins: Neapolitans of bad repute, an adviser warned, had been dispatched to Milan "on some evil errand."

Yet if Alfonso could be removed from Naples—if Charles VIII could be convinced to press his tenuous claim to its throne (his great-grandfather had been king of Naples a century earlier)—then Lodovico could rest easy in Milan. According to an observer at the French court, he had therefore begun "to tickle King Charles ... with the vanities and glories of Italy."

The Duchy of Milan ran seventy miles from north to south—from the foothills of the Alps to the Po—and sixty miles from west to east. At its heart, encircled by a deep moat, crisscrossed by canals, and protected by a circuit of stone walls, lay the city of Milan itself. Lodovico's wealth and determination had turned the city, with a population of one hundred thousand people, into Italy's greatest. A huge fortress with cylindrical towers loomed on its northeast edge, while at the center of the city rose the walls of a new cathedral, started in 1386 but still, after a century, barely half-finished. Palaces lined the paved streets, their facades decorated with frescoes. A poet exulted that in Milan the golden age had returned, and that Lodovico's city was full of talented artists who flocked to his court "like bees to honey."

The poet was not merely flattering to deceive. Lodovico had been an enthusiastic patron of the arts ever since, at the age of thirteen, he commissioned a portrait of his favorite horse. Under his rule, intellectual and artistic luminaries flocked to Milan: poets, painters, musicians, and architects, as well as scholars of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. The universities in Milan and neighboring Pavia were revived. Law and medicine flourished. New buildings were commissioned; elegant cupolas bloomed on the skyline. With his own hands Lodovico laid the first stone of the beautiful church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli presso San Celso.

And yet the verdict of the chroniclers would be harsh. Italy had enjoyed forty years of relative peace. The odd skirmish still broke out, such as when Pope Sixtus IV went to war against Florence in 1478. Yet for the most part Italy's princes vied to surpass one another not on the field of battle but in the taste and splendor of their accomplishments. Now, however, the blood-dimmed tide was loosed. By enticing Charles VIII and his thunderous weapons across the Alps, Lodovico Sforza had unwittingly unleashed—as all the stars foretold—innumerable horrible calamities.

Among the brilliant courtiers in Lodovico Sforza's Milan was an artist celebrated above all others. "Rejoice, Milan," wrote a poet in 1493, "that inside your walls are men with excellent honours, such as Vinci, whose skills in both drawing and painting are unrivalled by masters both ancient and modern."

This virtuoso was Leonardo da Vinci who, at forty-two, was exactly the same age as Lodovico. A Tuscan who came north to Milan a dozen years earlier to seek his reputation, he must have cut a conspicuous and alluring figure at Il Moro's court. By the accounts of his earliest biographers, he was strikingly handsome and elegant. "Outstanding physical beauty," enthused one writer. "Beautiful in person and aspect," observed another. "Long hair, long eyelashes, a very long beard, and a true nobility," declared a third. He possessed brawn and vigor too. He was said to be able to straighten a horse shoe with his bare hands, and during his absences from court he climbed the barren peaks north of Lake Como, crawling on all fours past huge rocks and contending with "terrible bears."

This epitome of masculine pulchritude bore the grand title pictor et ingeniarius ducalis: the duke's painter and engineer. He had come to Milan, aged thirty, in hopes of inventing and constructing fearsome war machines such as chariots, cannons, and catapults that would, he promised Il Moro, give "great terror to the enemy." His hopes were no doubt boosted by the fact that Milan was at war with Venice, with Lodovico spending almost 75 percent of his vast annual revenues on warfare. Although visions of battle danced in his head, he actually found himself at work on more modest and peaceable tasks, such as designing costumes for weddings and pageants, fashioning elaborate stage sets for plays, and painting a portrait of Il Moro's mistress. He amused courtiers by performing tricks such as turning white wine into red, and by inventing an alarm clock that woke up the sleeper by jerking his feet into the air. Occasionally the tasks were mundane: "To heat the water for the stove of the Duchess," one of his notes recorded, "take four parts of cold water to three parts of hot water."

Despite his diverse assignments, over much of the previous decade Leonardo had devoted himself to one commission in particular, a work of art that should truly have sealed his reputation as an artist unrivaled by ancients and moderns alike. In about 1482, shortly before moving to Milan, he composed a letter of introduction to Lodovico, a kind of curriculum vitae that somewhat exaggerated his abilities. In the letter, he promised to apprise Il Moro of his secrets, casually assuring him that "the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honour of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza."

This bronze horse was the larger-than-life equestrian monument by which Lodovico hoped to celebrate the exploits of his late father, Francesco Sforza. A wily soldier of fortune (Niccolò Machiavelli praised his "great prowess" and "honourable wickedness"), Francesco became duke of Milan in 1450 after overthrowing a short-lived republican government. He was the son of a man named Muzio Attendolo who, as a youngster, had been chopping wood when a troop of soldiers rode by and, eyeing his brawny frame, invited him to join them. Muzio threw his axe at a tree trunk, vowing to himself: "If it sticks, I will go." The axe stuck, and Muzio became a mercenary hired at various times by all of the major Italian princes. His strapping physique and fierce nature brought him the nickname "Sforza" (sforzare means to force), which, like the axe, stuck.

Francesco Sforza had been an equally brilliant soldier. He rose from soldier to duke nine years after marrying the illegitimate daughter of one of his clients, the duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti. The Visconti family had ruled Milan since 1277, and as dukes since 1395. However, in 1447, after Filippo Maria died without a male heir, the citizens of Milan did away with the dukedom and proclaimed a republic. Two years later, staking his claim to rule the city, Francesco blockaded and besieged Milan, whose starving citizens eventually gave up on their republic and, in March 1450, welcomed their former mercenary as duke of Milan. Francesco did not suffer the succession problems of Filippo Maria, fathering as many as thirty children, eleven of them illegitimate. No fewer than eight sons were born on the right side of the blanket, with the eldest, Galeazzo Maria—Il Moro's older brother—becoming duke upon Francesco's death in 1466.

The Visconti family had a gaudy history of heresy, insanity, and murder. One of the more intriguing members, a nun named Maifreda, was burned at the stake in the year 1300 for claiming she was going to be the next pope. Giovanni Maria Visconti, Filippo Maria's older brother, trained his hounds to hunt people and eat their flesh. Filippo Maria, fat and insane, cut off his wife's head. Even in such company, the cruel and lecherous Galeazzo Maria stood out. Machiavelli later blanched at his monstrous behavior, noting how he was not content to dispatch his enemies "unless he killed them in some cruel mode," while chroniclers could not bring themselves to describe various of his deeds. He was suspected of murdering not only his fiancée but also his mother. In 1476 he was felled by knife-wielding assassins, leaving behind an eight-year-old son and heir, Giangaleazzo—the child duke elbowed out of the way, five years later, by Lodovico il Moro, who solved the problem of authority in Milan by decapitating the boy's regent.

Lodovico's claim to sovereignty was tenuous. Technically speaking, he was only the guardian and representative of his nephew, who had inherited the title of duke of Milan from his father. This dubious prerogative meant Lodovico was anxious to keep alive in everyone's mind the memory of his own father. He had therefore commissioned from a scholar named Giovanni Simonetta a history of Francesco's illustrious career. He was further planning to have heroic scenes from his father's life frescoed in the ballroom of Milan's castle. An equestrian monument of Francesco had been mooted as early as 1473, when Galeazzo Maria planned to have one installed before Milan's castle. The project ended with his assassination but was revived by Lodovico, who envisaged the bronze monument as the most conspicuous and spectacular of the tributes to his father.

Mercenary captains were often flattered after their deaths in paint, print, and bronze. The sculptor Donatello cast a bronze equestrian monument of the Venetian commander Erasmo da Narni, better known as Gattamelata (Honey Cat), to stand in the Piazza del Santo in Padua. In 1480 another Florentine sculptor, Andrea del Verrocchio—Leonardo's former teacher—began working for the Venetians on a statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni on horse back. Lodovico envisaged something even more grandiose for his father. As an ambassador reported, "His Excellency desires something of superlative size, the like of which has never been seen."

* * *

Leonardo da Vinci once wrote that his first memory was of a bird, and that studying and writing about birds therefore "seems to be my destiny." Yet horses were truly the rudder of Leonardo's fortune, and a horse was, in a manner of speaking, what had brought him to Milan in the first place. According to one source, in about 1482 Lorenzo de' Medici, the ruler of Florence, had dispatched him to Milan with a special diplomatic gift for Lodovico Sforza: a silver lyre that Leonardo had invented, and on which he could play, an early biographer claimed, "with rare execution." This unique musical instrument was in the shape of a horse's head. A hasty sketch in one of Leonardo's manuscripts shows what the instrument may have looked like, with the horse's teeth serving as pegs for the strings and ridges in the roof of the mouth doubling as frets.

Given Lorenzo de' Medici's habit of conducting diplomatic relations through his artists, the story of the lyre has a ring of truth. But lyre or no lyre, Leonardo almost certainly would have made his way north to Milan in order to build weapons or design the equestrian monument, opportunities he must have decided did not readily present themselves in Florence.

Leonardo received the commission for the bronze statue within a few years of his arrival in Milan. Lodovico revived the project in earnest in 1484, though Leonardo was not his first choice as sculptor. Despite Leonardo's presence in Milan, in the spring of 1484 Lodovico wrote to Lorenzo de' Medici asking if he knew of any sculptors capable of casting the monument. But Florence's two greatest sculptors, Verrocchio and Antonio del Pollaiuolo, were both busy on other projects. "Here I do not find any artist who satisfies me," Lorenzo regretfully replied. He did not endorse Leonardo, merely adding, "I am sure that His Excellency will not lack someone."

For want of another candidate, then, Leonardo was given the commission, possibly quite soon after Lorenzo's response. He attacked the project with relish, albeit evidently inspired much more by the figure of the horse than by that of its rider. He made a close study of equine anatomy, and even composed and illustrated a (now-lost) treatise on the subject. He spent hours in the ducal stables, scrutinizing and drawing Sicilian and Spanish stallions owned by Lodovico and his favorite courtiers. One of his memoranda reads, "The Florentine Morello of Mr. Mariolo, large horse, has a nice neck and a very beautiful head. The white stallion belonging to the falconer has fine hind quarters; it is behind the Porta Comasina."

Leonardo's statue would not simply be anatomically correct; it would also strike an energetically rampant pose. Donatello's statue of Gattamelata portrayed the mercenary leader sitting upright on a placidly pacing horse, while Verrocchio's—on which Leonardo probably worked for a year or two before leaving Florence—placed Colleoni astride a muscular beast whose left foreleg was held prancingly aloft. Leonardo planned something more astonishing, a horse rearing on its hind legs with its front hooves pawing the air above a prostrate foe. Furthermore, his statue would be enormous. Donatello's monument was twelve feet high, Verrocchio's thirteen—but Leonardo envisaged a statue whose horse alone would be more than twenty-three feet in height, three times larger than life. It would testify to the glory of Francesco Sforza but, even more, to the tremendous and unrivaled abilities of the artist himself. Designing and casting a bronze statue of such magnitude was unpre cedented. One of his contemporaries wrote that the feat was "universally judged impossible." Leonardo, however, was never one to be daunted by colossal tasks. He once reminded himself in a note: "We ought not to desire the impossible." Elsewhere he wrote, "I wish to work miracles."

The gigantic horse did appear to be, if not impossible, then at the very least complex and extremely challenging: something that would indeed take a miracle to perform. The project taxed even Leonardo's ingenuity. Records do not show how far he advanced in these early years, but work certainly proceeded neither swiftly nor auspiciously. By 1489, Lodovico Sforza had begun to doubt the wisdom of giving him the commission. As the Florentine ambassador to Milan wrote home to Lorenzo de' Medici, "It appears to me that, while he has given the commission to Leonardo, he is not confident of his success."


Excerpted from Leonardo and The Last Supper by ROSS KING Copyright © 2012 by Ross King. Excerpted by permission of WALKER & COMPANY. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Map of Italy in 1494 viii

Sforza-Visconti Family Tree ix

The Last Supper with Apostles Identified xi

Chapter 1 The Bronze Horse 1

Chapter 2 Portrait of the Artist as a Middle-Aged Man 17

Chapter 3 The Cenacolo 40

Chapter 4 Dinner in Jerusalem 52

Chapter 5 Leonardo's Court 68

Chapter 6 The Holy League 86

Chapter 7 Secret Recipes 100

Chapter 8 "Trouble from This Side and That" 115

Chapter 9 Every Painter Paints Himself 124

Chapter 10 A Sense of Perspective 141

Chapter 11 A Sense of Proportion 159

Chapter 12 The Beloved Disciple 180

Chapter 13 Food and Drink 200

Chapter 14 The Language of the Hands 220

Chapter 15 "No One Loves the Duke" 243

Epilogue: Tell Me If I Ever Did a Thing 265

Acknowledgments 277

Notes 279

Selected Bibliography 311

Illustration Credits 323

Index 325

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    The Last Supper is one of the world’s most infamous paintings, and, as Ross King indicates, the masterpiece that defines Leonardo da Vinci. Ross King provides a well-researched, historical synopsis of the events in the life of Leonardo da Vinci, focusing on the creation of one of the foremost artistic masterpieces ever painted. In Leonardo and The Last Supper, Ross King brings us into the creative, political and religious world of Leonardo da Vinci. King discusses every decision da Vinci made regarding the content, expressions, schematics, models, and color choices, and they are explained in detail, based upon da Vinci’s original notes, sketches, and drawings. For example, da Vinci based the mural’s composition upon the accounts of the actual event, taken from the Bible’s four gospels. King provides his own masterpiece in this comprehensive account of da Vinci’s Italy and its history of the time period, and should be read by all, not just art historians.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2013


    I love the story of the last supper although Jesus was betrayed it was wonderful when he broke the bread. The only reason why am not buying this book is because im pretty sure i have the book and i have have the movie.

    1 out of 32 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2014

    Highly recommended

    learned alot, good and interesting read.

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  • Posted January 31, 2014

    A Very Dry Read

    As a general rule, I enjoy reading about history. That being said, I must say that this book is a very dry read. I was hoping there would be a little bit of "story" mixed in with all the facts, dates, places and people. I'm sure everything was accurate, as evidenced by all of the footnotes in the back which were meticulously enumerated, but this book did not do what I thought it would do for me, which was give me a better understanding of Leonardo, the man. I felt like I was slogging through a textbook. Unless you are writing your own book about Leonardo or the Last Supper and need a footnote for your own book, I would skip this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2013

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