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Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King

Leonardo and the Last Supper (2011)

by Ross King

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322553,488 (3.78)31
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)

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Showing 4 of 4
Who knew there would enough material to write a book about one painting? I loved this book. It's been a month since I finished and I like to re-tell some of the stories in it, like about what happened to the clay model of Leonardo's giant horse statue he never got to finish. Or how Leonardo felt at times like never really had "arrived." Or that he really just wanted to make war machinery, but always got overlooked for engineering jobs. Young Leonard had trouble focusing and finishing things, and was squirrelly to his job commitments. How encouraging it would have been to learn these things about him when I was in my 20s. These are the kinds of things that need to be taught in art school. Now I just need to plan my visit to Italy to see the Last Supper.

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1 vote kerchie1 | Jun 9, 2017 |
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. ( )
1 vote 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. ( )
1 vote 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 |
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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I wish to work miracles. - Leonardo da Vinci
For my father-in-law Sqn. Lhr. E. H. Harris RAF (Rtd)
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The astrologers and fortune-tellers were agreed: signs of the coming disasters were plain to see.
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