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Leonardo and the Last Supper


Leonardo and the Last Supper Cover

ISBN13: 9781620403082
ISBN10: 1620403080
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Publisher Comments:

In 1495, Leonardo da Vinci began what would become one of historys most influential works of art—The Last Supper. After a decade at the court of Lodovico Sforza, the duke of Milan, Leonardo was at a low point: at forty-three, he had failed, despite a number of prestigious commissions, to complete anything that truly fulfilled his astonishing promise. His latest failure was a giant bronze horse to honor Sforzas father, made with material expropriated by the military. The commission to paint The Last Supper was a small compensation, and his odds of completing it werent promising: he hadnt worked on such a large painting and had no experience in the standard mural medium of fresco.

Amid war and the political and religious turmoil around him, and beset by his own insecurities and frustrations, Leonardo created the masterpiece that would forever define him. Ross King unveils dozens of stories that are embedded in the painting, and overturns many of the myths surrounding it. Bringing to life a fascinating period in European history, he presents an original portrait of one of historys greatest geniuses through the lens of his most famous work.


The fascinating, behind-the-scenes story of one of historys greatest masterpieces—“A gripping account” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times).

About the Author

Ross King is the highly praised author of Brunelleschi's Dome (the Book Sense Nonfiction Book of the Year in 2000), Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling (on the New York Times extended bestseller list), The Judgment of Paris, Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power, and two novels, Ex Libris and Domino. He lives outside Oxford in England.

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sinsalcbg, February 24, 2014 (view all comments by sinsalcbg)
King, Ross. “Leonardo and the Last Supper” (New York: Bloomsbury, 2012).

If you like historical detail and the way that history is built up from note books, paper scraps and letters, and such, you’ll enjoy “Leonardo.” I did. King is a historian who apparently skipped university teaching and devoted himself, luckily, I think, to writing about the things that really teased his mind. So far, he’s cut a fine path. I’d like to read more from his pen because he lets you know where his historical details are coming from.

“Leonardo” is about Leonardo da Vinci, of course, and thanks to King’s curiosity about him I learned a lot about Leonardo and probably would have liked him a lot had I known him. He was a gifted man, clearly, and he knew it and was able to persuade men of power to sponsor his creativity which, by the way, was not entirely given to works of art like The Last Supper. He preferred constructing war machines and applying mathematics to edifices and conducting experiments, and so on. Leonardo painted The Last Supper because the Duke of Milan offered him a deal he couldn’t refuse,"apparently a very good deal. The artist dallied in completing it in part because he was often attracted to other projects much to the Duke’s chagrin like finding new techniques for bronze sculpturing, conducting ethnographic observations in the edges of town in search of new faces and hands to sketch for his voluminous note books including dissecting corpses to discover how muscles and tendons worked on bone.

I also learned a lot about Italy in the 1500s. This includes the antics of bellicose kings, popes, rival dukes, and so on,"the webs of pre-national politics and the cultural maze surrounding ordinary Italians and artists like Leonardo as well. On a smaller scale, I also learned of the composition of oils for Leonardo’s canvasses, the use of models for the apostles sitting around the Last Supper including the model for Jesus’s face, together with the pederastic practices of many men in Milan and other cultural centers, not excluding Leonardo himself.
King’s work is a marvelous and fascinating 16th century compendium of Italian culture, indeed.
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Product Details

King, Ross
Bloomsbury USA
General History
Art-History and Criticism
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
BandW art t/o; 8p 4/c insert
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Art » Artists
Arts and Entertainment » Art » History and Criticism
Featured Titles » Culture
History and Social Science » World History » General

Leonardo and the Last Supper New Trade Paper
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Product details 352 pages Bloomsbury Publishing PLC - English 9781620403082 Reviews:
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The fascinating, behind-the-scenes story of one of historys greatest masterpieces—“A gripping account” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times).
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