Milan, 1496 and 44-year-old Leonardo da Vinci is in a state of professional uncertainty and financial difficulty. For 18 months he has been painting murals in both the Sforza Castle in Milan and the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The latter project will become The Last Supper, a complex mural that took three years to complete on a surface 15 feet high by 20 feet wide. He had never attempted a painting so big, and had no experience with fresco.
For more than five centuries The Last Supper has been an artistic, religious, and cultural icon. Art historian Kenneth Clark called it "the keystone of European art". Yet this artistic masterpiece was created against the backdrop of momentous events both in Milan and in the life of Leonardo himself. In Leonardo and The Last Supper, Ross King tells the story of this creation of this mural: a 'biography' of one of the most famous works of art ever painted.
©2012 Ross King (P)2012 AudioGO Ltd
Not so magical as King's Judgement of Paris or Brunelleschi's Dome, this is still a lovely art history report.
At times you'll wonder at the way it seems to jump from topic to topic (from wars and alliances between Italian dukedoms and Charles of France, one is suddenly discussing human flight, party tricks for bored courtiers, the chemistry of paint on fresco, or the Fibonacci sequence), until you realize that King has allowed you a glimpse into the mind of the brilliant Leonardo, and the way so many subjects preyed upon his ravenous attention simultaneously. It's the one truly inspired aspect of this narrative, and very well done.
Going into the world and mind of Leonardo da Vinci was a glorious experience. From the technical difficulty of painting on wet plaster to the upheavals of Italian politics at the time. This story covers a lot of ground. And covers it extremely well.
If you're interested in History and Art then I think this is a book you'll really enjoy.
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I enjoyed the book overall, but I was more interested by the “behind the scenes” story of the painting than I was in the life of Leonardo.
Once again Ross King takes us on another adventure to the world of the Renaissance. While the subject of the Last Supper is indeed far more limited in scope than Brunelleschi's Dome or Michelangelo's Ceiling, Ross expands beyond the horizon of the refectory wall to the limitless vistas of Da Vinci's world. I can only say that I wish he would have gone even further. The narration is also quite good. I'm on my third listen.
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