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Leonardo sketches on display at Cenacolo Vinciano

A “small” but extraordinarily high quality exhibition, telling of the journey which prompted art genius Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) to create one of the world’s best known works.

The “Leonardo da Vinci: Prime idee per l’Ultima Cena” – First ideas for the Last Supper – exhibition boasts the presence of certain exceptionally generous loans granted by the Royal Collection Trust, the personal collection of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain.

The collection

A total collection of ten pieces: seven preparatory sheets by Leonardo himself and three sketches by his pupils, Cesare da Sesto and Francesco Melzi.

It is an exhibition which gives visitors the chance to discover the original nucleus with which this Tuscan artist conceived his “Ultima Cena” (“Last Supper“). It is an extraordinary graphic repertoire by which we can enquire into the development of the composition and the birth of the masterpiece which we can now admire inside the Santa Maria delle Grazie refectory.

Il Cenacolo di Leonardo Da Vinci

It is an exhibition which thus throws light on Leonardo da Vinci’s multi-faceted talent and succeeds in highlighting his exceptional drawing skills too and the fact that, as Giorgio Vasari remembered, “he never left off drawing and sculpting which suited his imagination better than anything”.

Leonardo’s interest in anatomical drawing can be dated to the end of the 1480s and the years from 1507 to 1513 (or perhaps to his Anghiari battle commission in 1503). The”Ultima Cena” (Last Supper) phase was not characterised by anatomical study and the figures in it are covered with loose clothing which conceals their bodies.

Disegno preparatorio - dettaglio

Leonardo’s preparatory drawings can essentially be collected into two blocks. A first nucleus includes his studies of the whole: quicker pen sketches in which the artist attempted to study his composition without dwelling on the details.

The sheet containing compositional studies is of exceptional value. It shows that Leonardo started from a traditional conception of the “Ultima Cena” (“Last Supper“) before achieving an extraordinarily innovative work. This pen sketch shows the Apostles on both sides of the table, isolating Judas, while in the final wall painting the Apostles are all on both sides of Christ.

The detail studies, the second exhibition nucleus, dwell with immense skill on observing individual details of faces, actions and feet. These are sheets which preview definitive painting form.

When and where

The “Leonardo da Vinci: Prime idee per l’Ultima Cena” exhibition can be visited from 13th October 2018 to 13th January 2019 inside the Refectory, precisely to contrast the planning phases with the finished work.

The exhibition is free of charge, i.e. there is no additional cost on top of the normal ticket price. It is a tribute by Polo Museale della Lombardia to Leonardo da Vinci, launching the fifth centenary of his death celebrations on 2nd May 1519.