Milan exhibits pictorial history of Leonardo’s ‘Last Supper’

1 Apr-25 June: From etchings to photography.

Milan’s central Castello Sforzesco is the setting for an exhibition of the many reproductions inspired by Leonardo’s Last Supper, located nearby in the city’s convent of S. Maria delle Grazie.

One of the world’s most famous paintings, the Cenacolo (as Jesus’ last supper with his disciples is called in Italian) was created during the closing years of the 15th century, commissioned by Duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza, Leonardo’s patron. It immediately sparked a surge of reproductions by other visual artists, which over the years shifted from etchings to paintings to photography.

This rich heritage of illustrations proved of essential value as the original suffered the effects of time and climate, and restoration became necessary to preserve its original splendour.

The exhibition, open free to the public until 25 June, includes paintings, prints, drawings, photos and excerpts from books and magazines collected from the city’s most prestigious archives, documenting the art world’s fascination with the masterpiece.

Entitled The Archaeology of the Last Supper, the exhibit at Castello Sforzesco is a forerunner of a wide-ranging programme of celebrations being planned in Milan to commemorate the fifth centenary of the famous artist’s death in 1519.

It provides an interesting counterpoint to Andy Warhol’s last major work, Sixty Last Suppers, currently on loan to Milan’s Museo del Novecento until 18 May.