One Day in Italy, This Happened…
Seeing the Last Supper as a Da Vinci Code Loving Art Novice
I admit it: I’m not a huge artwork fan. Granted, I can appreciate it. Raphael’s Rooms in the Vatican literally stopped me in my tracks with the lifelike expressions on the painted faces. The Sistine Chapel was also amazing – maybe because I’d remembered from junior high history class that Michelangelo had painted most of it lying on his back. And there was denying that the Mona Lisa was enthralling to see with her eerie eyes that followed you across the room. The magnitude of the Statue of David is aslo forever etched in my mind. However, the rest of my time in art museums usually ends up like this:
So knowing that I could appreciate art, but I didn’t really get it most of time, I was completely unprepared at the amazement I’d feel upon seeing The Last Supper.
The Last Supper is Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting of Jesus and the 12 apostles at the biblical Last Supper; the painting is located in Milan, Italy. It is also at the center of the mystery in Dan Brown’s mega best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code. The latter was the main reason I wanted to see the painting as I’d just finished the book the previous summer and was still all hyped up about it. Apparently, everyone else felt the same because appointments to see The Last Supper were booked out two months in advance. Thanks to Rick Steves and a tip from my mom, we were able to find a tour that included seeing the Last Supper.
Visiting The Last Supper occurred at the end of the tour. Of course – the thing you most want to see is always at the end.
Our tour group had to separate into two groups as only 15 people are allowed into see The Last Supper at a time. My sister, Ang, and I were in the first group. The building in which The Last Supper lives was small and looked very old, but there was nothing remarkable about it that made it stand out from any other buildings on the street.
We entered the building and had to go through a series of 3 doors and small climate controlled rooms. The entry and exit doors to each room are never opened at the same time in order to keep the humidity and moisture that may reach the painting to a minimum.
Then, with an exit from the final climate controlling room, I was seeing The Last Supper with my own eyes. I was surprised at how large it was. It filled up half the wall at one end of the room, which was a modest size and was the dining room of some rich Italian family at the time the painting occurred.
Above the hum of the large humidifier in the room, our guide began to tell us about the painting, with this precursor: “I am going to be talking about the making and design of the painting from the historical perspective, I will not be discussing the Da Vinci Code perspective.”
Hmmm, maybe not everyone’s a fan of the book. She began to point out the depth perspective of the painting and explained how Da Vinci was the pioneer of painting depth and compared it to another painting on the wall (whose artist was unknown) whose depth perspective was completely off. Da Vinci’s, on the other hand, looked perfect. When she began talking about how Da Vinci painted John, I squinted closely at the figure: he looked like he could be a girl to me. Mary Magdalene anyone? I heard another couple on the tour murmuring about John and Mary Magdalene and smiled as I knew I wasn’t the only one looking at the painting with “tainted” Da Vinci Code eyes.
However, the longer we stood looking at the painting, the less I thought about the Da Vinci Code, and the more I thought about the man who painted The Last Supper.
What suddenly struck me was that this was a painting on a wall. The wall had never been moved. The wall had survived WWII when a bomb dropped right into the middle of the former dining room, but miraculously left The Last Supper untouched. Through centuries and wars this painting had always stayed right there on that wall. It never switched museums, it never got stolen during wars, it was always right there. And that was in this exact spot where Da Vinci stood to paint it.
I was standing right where Da Vinci stood while he painted The Last Supper.
And that fact instantly elevated the awe I felt seeing The Last Supper. I left the room feeling like I’d truly just walked through a part of history; Da Vinci Code or no Da Vinci Code.