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Leonardo's Incessant Last Supper

Overview

A picture universally recognized, endlessly scrutinized and described,incessantly copied, adapted, lampooned: does Leonardo's near-ruined Last Supper still offer anything new to be seen or to be said? This book is a resounding Yes to both questions. With direct perception — -and with attention paid to the work of earlier scholars and to the criticism embodied in the production of copyists over the past five hundred years — Leo Steinberg demonstrates that Leonardo's mural has been consistently oversimplified. This...

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Overview

A picture universally recognized, endlessly scrutinized and described,incessantly copied, adapted, lampooned: does Leonardo's near-ruined Last Supper still offer anything new to be seen or to be said? This book is a resounding Yes to both questions. With direct perception — -and with attention paid to the work of earlier scholars and to the criticism embodied in the production of copyists over the past five hundred years — Leo Steinberg demonstrates that Leonardo's mural has been consistently oversimplified. This most thought-out picture in Western art,painted in the 1490s on the north wall of the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie,Milan, is a marvel of compressed meanings. Its subject is not one arrested moment,but successiveness and duration. It is not only Christ's announcement of the forthcoming betrayal, but in equal measure the institution of the Eucharist. More than the spur of the moment animates the disciples, and more than perspective determines their housing. Though Leonardo's geometry obeys all rules, it responds as well to Christ's action at center, as if in emanation from the prime mover. The picture is simultaneously narrative and sacramental. As its protagonist is two-natured, as the twofold event of this night is both human submission and divine dispensation — -so the entire picture is shown to have been conceived in duplexity: a sublime pun.Meanwhile, the unending disagreement as to what exactly is represented, what the depicted actions express, how and where this assembly is seated — -all these still-raging disputes are traced to a single mistaken assumption: that Leonardo intended throughout to be unambiguous and clear, and that any one meaning necessarily rules out every other.As Steinberg reveals an abundance of significant interrelations previously overlooked, Leonardo's masterpiece regains the freshness of its initial conception and the power to fascinate.

Zone Books

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Editorial Reviews

Michael Podro
In Leonardo’s Incessant Last Supper, Leo Steinberg sets out to restore the kind of response he thinks the painting would have attracted when it was completed in 1498.
Times Literary Supplement
Library Journal
Another Da Vinci icon familiar to most of the world is, of course, La Gioconda, or The Mona Lisa. Sassoon (history, Univ. of London) has written an accessible work, more historical than analytical, that is essentially a biography of the painting itself. Nearly every fact one could ever hope to know about The Mona Lisa is traced, and the travails of the painting provide more than enough action and drama for any reader. Sassoon's knowledge of the minutiae of history and his respect for the image drive the narrative, which ranges from the painting's intriguing beginnings through the abuse of the image by the modern advertising industry. The Mona Lisa has traveled the world and smiled her way into the minds of many generations, and the author rightly points out her effect on the popularization of serious art in general. Thoroughly researched and highly readable, this is recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/01.] Douglas McClemont, New York Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781890951184
  • Publisher: Zone Books
  • Publication date: 5/1/2001
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 1,281,471
  • Product dimensions: 10.50 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Art historian Leo Steinberg is Benjamin Franklin Professor Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania. His books include Other Criteria: Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art, Michelangelo's Last Paintings, The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion, and Encounters with Rauschenberg.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 12
I The Moment 18
II The Subject 30
III Of Hands and Feet 54
IV The Twelve 74
V The Connection 112
VI Coincident Opposites 126
VII Seven Functions of the Hands of Christ 138
VIII Marginalia 152
IX The Sanctification of Space 170
App. A Bossi and Goethe: Original Texts 198
App. B Antoniewicz on the Last Supper (1904): Translation and Original Text 200
App. C The Identification of the Apostles 217
App. D The Castellazzo Fresco and the Certosa Canvas at Odds 219
App. E Copies and Adaptations 225
App. F Rethinking Two or Three Drawings and One Meddling Text 272
Gatefold: Color Plate of the Last Supper 293
Bibliographical References 297
List of Illustrations 303
Acknowledgments 311
Index of Names 313
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