Inspirational Story or Bunkum?

I don’t know much about the painting of The Last Supper; are there any art or European historians who can verify or debunk this story? Sorry if this violate any copyright laws, but this is how I received it via e-mail, uncredited, uncopyrighted? I dunno, anyway, here goes:

“The Painting of the Last Supper”

"The story behind painting of the Last Supper is extremely interesting and
instructive. Two incidents connected with this painting afford a most convincing lesson on the effects of thought in the life of a boy or girl, or of a man or woman.

"The Last Supper was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, a noted Italian artist. The time engaged for its completion was seven years. The figures representing the twelve apostles and Christ himself were painted from living persons. The live model for the painting of the figure of Jesus was chosen first.

"When it was decided that Da Vinci would paint this great picture, hundreds and hundreds of young men were carefully viewed in an endeavor to find a face and personality of unaffected by sin. Finally, after weeks of laborious searching a young man, nineteen years of age, was selected as the model for the portrayal of Christ. For six months Da Vinci worked on the production of this leading character of the famous painting.

"During the next six years Da Vinci continued his labors on his sublime work of art. One by one, fitting persons were chosen to represent each of the eleven apostles, space being left for the painting of the figure representing Judas Iscariot as the final task of this masterpiece. This was the apostle, you remember, who betrayed his Lord for thirty pieces of silver with $16.95, in our present day currency.

"For weeks Da Vinci searched for a man with hard callous face, with a countenance marked by scars of avarice, deceit, who would betray his best friend. After many discouraging experiences in searching for the type of person required to represent Judas, word came to Da Vinci that a man whose
appearance fully met the requirements had been found. He was in a dungeon in Rome, sentenced to die for a life of crime and murder. Da Vinci made the trip to Rome at once, and this man was brought out from his
imprisonment in the dungeon and led out into the light of the sun. There Da Vinci saw before him a dark, swarthy man, his long shaggy and unkempt hair sprawled over his face. A face which portrayed a character of viciousness and complete ruin. At last the
painter had found the person he wanted to represent the character of Judas in his painting. By special permission from the king, this prisoner was carried to Milan where the fresco was being painted.

"For six months the prisoner sat before Da Vinci, at appointed hours each day, as the gifted artist diligently continued his task of transmitting to his painting this base character in the picture representing the
traitor and betrayer of the Savior. As he finished his last stroke, he turned to the
guards and said, “I have finished, you may take the prisoner away.” The prisoner suddenly broke loose from their control and rushed up to Da Vinci, crying as he did so, “Oh, DaVinci, look at me! Do you not know who I am?” Da Vinci, with the trained eyes of a great character student, carefully scrutinized the man upon whose face he had constantly gazed for six months and replied, “No, I have never seen you in my life until you were brought before me out of the dungeon in Rome.”

"Then lifting his eyes toward heaven, the prisoner said, “O God, have I fallen so low?” Then turning his face to the painter he cried, “Leonardo Da Vinci, look at me again, for I am the same man you painted just
seven years ago as the figure of Christ!”

"This is the true story of the painting of the Last Supper that teaches so strongly the lesson of the effects of right and wrong thinking of an individual.

“He was a young man whose character was so pure and unspoiled by the sins of the world, that he represented a countenance and innocence and beauty fit to be used for the painting of a representation of Christ. But during the seven years, following a life of sin an crime, he was changed into a perfect
picture of the most notorious character ever known in the history of the world.”

“I hope life isn’t a big joke, because I don’t get it,” Jack Handy

What a load of crap!

I’ll let someone debunk the rest of the story. But for the record an oz of silver goes for $5.12. Even if those pieces of silver were only the size of a half dollars, 30 pieces would still be worth $77.00!

I’m with PapaBear on this.

It sounds too damned convenient to be true.

Plus, if it came in an e-mail, well, I would doubt the truth of it on that basis alone.

Flick Lives!

There Da Vinci saw before him a dark, swarthy man, his long shaggy and unkempt hair sprawled over his face. A face which portrayed a character of viciousness and complete ruin. At last the
painter had found the person he wanted to represent the character of Judas in his painting. By special permission from the king, this prisoner was carried to Milan where the fresco was being painted.

Wow! I didn’t know Rob Zombie was alive back then!

Truth doesn’t come via email, and doesn’t come from undocumented sources either. There’s no records of Leo trolling dungeons from models (most models then were artist’s assistants) and who would of recorded the whole conversation? Also, no one goes off and paints a painting object by object like that. Well, someone might, but Leo didn’t. You put time into one thing at a time, but you don’t spend six months painting a person (six months?! Do you know how large the painting is? I hope he wasn’t being paid by the hour, else he was a hell of a slacker) and then yell out “Next!” Finally, you don’t need the model there the whole time you’re painting them. Models cost money (a good part of the reason for subbing in your interns and assistants) and you really don’t need them there while you finish the ‘last stroke’. Bunkum isn’t the word for it…

“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

IIRC “The last supper” wasn’t a fresco. Di Vinci thought the medium was too hurried (you had to paint before the plaster dried) for the type of epic painting he wished to create. He chose instead to use oils. This is why the masterpiece is in such bad condition today.

You’re right, Papa… oils work well on canvas, but they didn’t absorb into the plaster so as the plaster flaked, the painting came off with it. The more traditional method was tempra on wet plaster where the paint literally became a part of the wall itself as it absorbed into the building material.

“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

As I remember my art history, The Last Supper is a fresco, but Len was experimenting with his own recipe for the plaster and that’s why it didn’t hold up.

Good lord, everyone knows da Vinci’s wife was the model for Judas.

The Last Supper is actually a tempera.

Nickrz: Evidently not everyone.

This story is much older than e-mail. I remember hearing it as a child. Of course, that doesn’t make it any more authentic. It sounds to me like one of those convenient little stories that pop up among the religious to give a moral. Probably dreamed up by someone who imagined a resemblence.

Carpe hoc!

Nice story (did you hear it on Paul Harvey), but I don’t buy it for a different reason than those expressed thus far. 19 was much much older at the time this painting was made. Hell, 19 was close to middle age (read Romeo and Juliet, they’re supposed to be about 14.) It appears that one of the bases of the story is DaVinci found a very young person who was not touched by sin to model for him. Nowadays this would work – 19 is very young. But then, 19 would be about equal to 35 or so, and equally experienced.

It’s still a nice story, just not very believable.

From “Lives of the Most Eminent Italian Architects, Painters, and Sculptors” (1550)by Giorgio Vasari (1511-74

So, Judas and Jesus were the last faces to be completed. There was no huge span of years between the painting of the two. Judas was modeled on the monastery’s prior (not a criminal), and was finished BEFORE that of Christ.

Gosh, that’s satisfying, Now to prove it was painted in oils, not tempra…

…and of course there’s the story about Michealangelo’s “Last Judgement”, on the back wall of the Sistene Chapel. It seems there was a Cardinal who had been giving Mike a bad time about the painting (Jesus didn’t have a halo, but did have a penis, things like that) so Mike painted him as one of the souls in Hell, giving him donkey ears to boot. The cardinal appealed to the Pope, but the Pope said, “If you were in purgatory, I could possibly help you, but even I have no ability to aid the souls in hell.”

They say I got the power, because I got the monkeys.
They are WRONG! I got the power because I am not afraid to let the monkeys loose.

Not really, Frank. This is a common misperception, though. I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but the average life expectancy during the Renaissance probably WAS around 45-55. However, that doesn’t mean that 19 was “close to middle age.” You see, the life expectancy figure is an average – with a very high infant and childhood death rate factored in. A person who managed to survive childhood had an excellent chance of living to an old age – especially a male person, who wouldn’t be sailing the dangerous seas of pregnancy. Da Vinci and Michelangelo both lived to be 80ish, you know. Most men would have been in their 20s when they married (women rather younger). A 19 year old man would have been considered young (and possibly innocent) even then.


Full of 'satiable curtiosity

I guess I figured as much. After I posted the OP, I realized I should have checked snopes, but didn’t. I remember my mom told me a similar story when I was younger, but she didn’t say the model had been imprisoned, it was more like a sly, “Why, Leonardo, don’t you recognize me?”; like the model had pulled one over on Leonardo. C’est la guerre :slight_smile:

“I hope life isn’t a big joke, because I don’t get it,” Jack Handy

Speaking of bogus inspirational stories working their way around the Internet… in the last week, four different friends have e-mailed me the story of how ALexander Fleming’s father saved the life of young Winston Churchill. Supposedly, Churchill’s father was so grateful, he sent young Alexander to the finest schools, which made it possible for Fleming to bnecome a doctor and invent penicillin.

Now, I was 99.9% convinced from the first that this story was utter drivel. And a quick look at reference sources suggests that Alexander’s much older brother was already a doctor… suggesting that Alex already had a role model and the means to get into college without the benificence of Lord Churchhill.

Still, I’m curious- how long has this story been around? Was there ANY connection between Churchill and Fleming, however tenuous? Or is this just the usual internet “inspirational” B.S.?

As long as we’re talking Leonardo UL’s, has anyone else heard the story that the model for the Mona Lisa was Leonardo himself? He supposedly used a feminized version of his own face in a mirror as his model.

I believe this one for a couple of reasons:

#1 DaVinci was always experimenting. He did several self-portraits where he changed his appearance. It’s not that much of a stretch to think he would do a self-portrait as a female

#2 The Mona Lisa has an interesting phenomenon - the eyes follow you around the room. Now this is easy to do with photography - just look straight into the lens of the camera as someone is taking your picture. To get this affect in painting, the painter would have to look straight into the eyes of the model & the model would have to look back into the painter’s eyes.

#3 Mona is a dog! woof!