Art That Makes You Smarter- The Last Supper


Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, c.1495-97
Tempera and Oil on Plaster, 460 x 880 cm.

It has been said that Leonardo da Vinci accomplished more than any other man in history. He was an inventor, a musician, a sculptor, an architect, an engineer, a writer, and a painter (among so many other things). One of his most famous paintings, The Last Supper, is painted in the refectory of the Monastery of Saint Maria delle Grazie in Milan. This painting was copied by other artists of da Vinci's time and has been reproduced widely since. This is a painting of the last supper between Jesus Christ and his disciples. Jesus Christ tells them that one of them will betray him. The men are arranged in groups of three with Christ in the center. Da Vinci experimented with a new mixture (linseed oil, pigments, egg) to paint this piece resulting in restorative work being necessary as early as 1517. The many restorations to this piece have caused damage to the paint and some changes in the actual figures. There is some controversy surrounding the latest restoration, in 1977. It took 22 years, but those in favor of this restorative effort note that almost 50% of the original painting remains and the original brilliant colors are now more evident. 

Questions for Students to Ponder and Explore:
What types of food are the men eating? What is beyond the window? What is linseed oil? Why are the men wearing such a limited number of colors (blue, red, cream, tan)? Why are the men arranged in groups of three? Where are the women?

Arts Integration Ideas (adapt for specific grade levels as needed):
History- Some speculate that da Vinci painted himself into this work. Research theories that both support and refute this speculation. Determine which is most convincing. Write a persuasive piece citing research. 
Writing- View Ultima Cena by Juan de Juanes. Use a Double Bubble Map or a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast the two paintings. Use this to create a piece of writing.
Math- Study the perspective of the painting. Use rulers to measure and draw the room (windows, walls, etc.)
Language- Make a Circle Map of nouns in the painting. Sort the nouns into categories. Use the nouns to form sentences and paragraphs about the painting.
Science-  Experiment with the materials da Vinci used to create the paint for this piece.  Create this paint. Test it, experiment with it. What materials would improve this type of paint? Make guesses about what other materials he might have included.

Helpful Resources:

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 Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room