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Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King

Leonardo and the Last Supper (edition 2012)

by Ross King

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156476,544 (3.94)22
Title:Leonardo and the Last Supper
Authors:Ross King
Info:Walker & Company (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 352 pages, $28.00
Collections:Your library
Tags:non-fiction, art

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Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King

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Showing 4 of 4
Ross King's Leonardo and the Last Supper (Walker & Company, 2012) offers a good mix of biographical detail on da Vinci and his career, the historical context around the creation of his "Last Supper," and an analysis of the painting itself (from the possible models used to the food on the table to the way the painting fit into the room where it was created). King debunks a good few of the myths that have sprung up about the work (no, John is not Mary Magdalene, and no, the same model wasn't used for both Jesus and Judas), and uses a fair number of interesting digressions to explore other da Vinci works and aspects of both his life and the lives of those connected with the painting.

A bit more slow-going than some others of King's books, but still readable and interesting. ( )
  JBD1 | Nov 24, 2012 |
Despite its iconic status, I knew very little about Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper before reading Ross King's book. I know a lot more about it now. This isn't a dry analysis of Leonardo's technique. It's an informative and entertaining look at Leonardo da Vinci's life, particularly the years spent in the court of the Duke of Milan. King puts the work into its historical context within Leonardo's career, the Renaissance art world, and the political climate in Milan in the late 15th century.

After reading about Leonardo's trail of unfinished projects leading up to The Last Supper, I think it's a wonder that he completed it. Since Leonardo didn't use the typical fresco technique, he had a wider range of colors available to him. Unfortunately, the painting began to show signs of deterioration even within Leonardo's lifetime. After centuries of well-meaning but disastrous preservation and restoration efforts and near-destruction from a World War II bombing, it's amazing that there's anything left to see. My bucket list now includes a trip to Milan to see what's left of the mural in person. I wish I could have done that about 500 years ago!

This review is based on an electronic advanced reading copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley. ( )
  cbl_tn | Oct 28, 2012 |
The subject matter appeared to be quite intriguing, but I simply couldn't get into this book.
  BookDivasReads | Oct 26, 2012 |

I have always admired Leonardo da Vinci and have, over the years, read numerous books about him, or inspired by his work. I even enjoyed the escapist fantasy that was Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (even though I recognized that its entire premise was based on the sensational and badly researched work found in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail). In school I wrote no less than four essays about Leonardo, and when I saw some of his paintings at The Louvre (including the Mona Lisa) I was truly moved.

So when I first began reading Ross King’s Leonardo and the Last Supper, I was enthusiastic but I didn’t expect to learn anything new. After all, didn’t I already know a lot about my favourite Renaissance master? Well...not only did I learn a lot, I think I have a new favourite book about Leonardo da Vinci!

Here are some of the things I learned from Ross King’s book (many of which are probably things that I had read before but had completely forgotten):

--Leonardo was a vegetarian;
--The Last Supper was not a fresco but a mural, meaning the paint has chipped off and been restored so many times that nearly nothing remains of the original painting;
--King James I (the bible guy?!?) reportedly defended his homosexual relationship with the Duck of Buckingham by comparing it to Jesus’ relationship with the apostle John;
--the food on the table in Leonardo’s Last Supper included a dish of eels and oranges;
--Leonardo liked to write jokes and play pranks, many of which involved playing “magic” tricks on people’s food;
--Leonardo’s favourite outfit was pink tights and a purple tunic;
--the superstition about spilling salt being an invitation for the devil is said to have originated when Leonardo painted Judas spilling the salt cellar in The Last Supper, though originally it was going to be a goblet of wine.

In addition to being filled with fascinating information, Ross King’s book is also adept at putting to rest some of the most persistent rumours surrounding da Vinci’s work. Did he use the same model for Jesus and Judas? No, of course not. That story is a fabrication. Was Leonardo part of the secret society, The Priory of Sion? No, that group is wholly an invention of the twentieth century. Is there an “unowned hand” on the table? No, all the hands are accounted for, even if they’re at unusual angles. And, of course, is that Mary Magdalene sitting next to Jesus? No, it’s John. But it looks like a woman... No, it’s John. But couldn’t it be--? No, it’s John.

Though conspiracy theories abound, the real story behind The Last Supper, like many “stories behind the conspiracy theories,” is sufficiently fascinating all on its own. But if you’re craving conspiracies, how about, uh...

Ross King’s name contains eight letters and follows the consonant (c) and vowel (v) pattern of C-V-C-C-C-V-C-C, just like DAN BROWN!

For more reviews, please visit my blog, CozyLittleBookJournal.

Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own. ( )
2 vote CozyBookJournal | Aug 5, 2012 |
Showing 4 of 4
“The Last Supper” seemed to many to be a miraculous work of art because its revolutionary combination of realism, dramatic power and attention to detail was unlike anything that had come before. Leonardo had created a new standard for painterly excellence in the Renaissance. Yet Henry James called it “the saddest work of art in the world,” because it had for hundreds of years been on the verge of falling into invisibility. By casting light on the historical context of “The Last Supper,” King has enabled us to see the painting anew.
By the age of 42 (in an era in which life expectancy was 40), Leonardo da Vinci had yet to create anything commensurate with his lofty ambitions. At that point, Ross King writes in his new book, “Leonardo and ‘The Last Supper,’ ” he “had produced only a few scattered paintings, a bizarre-looking music instrument, some ephemeral decorations for masques and festivals and many hundreds of pages of notes and drawings for studies he had not yet published, or for inventions he had not yet built.” Too many of his projects — like creating a gigantic bronze horse on commission for Lodovico Sforza, the ruler of Milan — had gone unfinished; other projects having to do with architecture, military engineering and urban planning had not found patrons.....
added by marq | editNew York Times, MICHIKO KAKUTANI (Oct 29, 2012)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802717055, Hardcover)

Early in 1495, Leonardo da Vinci began work in Milan on what would become one of history's most influential and beloved works of art-The Last Supper. After a dozen years at the court of Lodovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, Leonardo was at a low point personally and professionally: at forty-three, in an era when he had almost reached the average life expectancy, he had failed, despite a number of prestigious commissions, to complete anything that truly fulfilled his astonishing promise. His latest failure was a giant bronze horse to honor Sforza's father: His 75 tons of bronze had been expropriated to be turned into cannons to help repel a French invasion of Italy. The commission to paint The Last Supper in the refectory of a Dominican convent was a small compensation, and his odds of completing it were not promising: Not only had he never worked on a painting of such a large size-15' high x 30' wide-but he had no experience in the extremely difficult medium of fresco. In his compelling new book, Ross King explores how-amid war and the political and religious turmoil around him, and beset by his own insecurities and frustrations-Leonardo created the masterpiece that would forever define him. King unveils dozens of stories that are embedded in the painting. Examining who served as the models for the Apostles, he makes a unique claim: that Leonardo modeled two of them on himself. Reviewing Leonardo's religious beliefs, King paints a much more complex picture than the received wisdom that he was a heretic. The food that Leonardo, a famous vegetarian, placed on the table reveals as much as do the numerous hand gestures of those at Christ's banquet. As King explains, many of the myths that have grown up around The Last Supper are wrong, but its true story is ever more interesting. Bringing to life a fascinating period in European history, Ross King presents an original portrait of one of the world's greatest geniuses through the lens of his most famous work.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:34 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Tells the complete story of the creation of The Last Supper mural: the adversities suffered by the artist during its execution; the experimental techniques he employed; the models for Christ and the Apostles that he used; and the numerous personalities involved -- everyone from the Leonardo's young assistants to Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan who commissioned the work.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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