studying at st barnabas

Divine in the Darkest of Times

After viewing Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper at Santa Maria Delle Grazie, Mary Shelley wrote “How vain are copies”. In her travels at home and abroad, she would have seen many.

Since the work was completed in 1498, scholars and artists have offered diverse perspectives and analyses. Leonardo’s mathematical genius and wayward work ethic, local politics, adaptations using Lego, Star Wars and the Simpsons, modern era representations including those of Andy Warhol and Chinese artist Zheng Fanzh, can distract us from the point of difference that Leonardo offers.  The scene depicts the moments after he tells the apostles that one of them will betray him. Shelley’s focus on Christ’s face “Majesty and love…….an absence of guile that expresses the divine nature” leads us back to the divinity of the scene, away from the distractions of equilateral triangles, hands seen through glass, vegetarian interpretations and perspectives on left handedness.

The fresco has survived the ravages of time, the installation of a refectory door in the centre and an RAF bomb in August 1943. Tourists to Milan can now pre book online to queue up and view the fresco for 15 mins. Preservation of the fresco and of historical and cultural interpretations is essential but it is also important that we focus, as Mary Shelley did, on Christ at the centre and present for all, divine in the darkest of times. “Do this, in remembrance of me.”

Ann Nadge

Shelley, Mary Rambles in Germany and Italy. Published in 1844

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