Note This is Perutz's last book. After his death at Ischl on 25 August 1957 I was asked to look through the completed manuscript and prepare it for the press. I undertook the task the more gladly and the more respectfully as I always regarded Perutz as my especially admired teacher. Alexander Lernet-Holenia
On a blustery day in March 1498, when showers of rain on the Lombard plain were interrupted every now and again by belated snow flurries, the prior of the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie went to the castle in Milan to wait upon Duke Ludovico Maria Sforza, commonly known as Il Moro, the Moor, to seek his support in a matter that had been troubling him for some considerable time.
Milan, 1498. The Duke, Ludovico il Moro, is pressing Leonardo da Vinci to complete his fresco The Last Supper for the refectory of S. Maria delle Grazie, on which the artist has been working on and off for three years. The delay is due to Leonardo's being unable to find a suitable model for Judas, the Apostle who betrayed Christ: he has searched in vain for a sitter whose face will convey the full horror of Judas' sin. (.... edited content ...) What was it that drove Judas to sacrifice his Lord's love, Leonardo needs to know. At last he meets, and sketches, the man who has the answer. Leonardo's Judas was Leo Perutz's last novel, completed days before he died. It may be read as a vivid evocation of da Vinci and the world of Renaissance artists and artisans; or it may be read as a thought-provoking parable - and a beautifully told story. (Harvill blurb)