What Inspired Leonardo da Vinci To Paint The Last Supper?

The Last Supper Painting

Leonardo da Vinci only finished painting one mural during his lifetime; that mural is known as the Last Supper. It is one of the most famous paintings of the Last Supper ever created.

Duke Ludovico Sforza commissioned Leonardo to paint the Last Supper mural. What makes the Last Supper mural so unique is that he painted it at the exact time when Christ told the Apostles during The Last Supper meal that one of them would betray him. Leonardo showed the apostles’ reactions, including Judas, who betrayed Christ.

Leonardo da Vinci And The Last Supper Commission

The Last Supper Painting
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci

The wall painting of The Last Supper was commissioned by Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan and one of Leonardo’s essential patrons. We know Sforza commissioned this as the Sforza coat of arms appeared with the family initials on the mural.

In 1482 at the age of 30, Leonardo left Tuscany for Milan to be the painter of Duke Ludovico Sforza and his wife, Duchess Beatrice d’Este. This patronage saw Leoncaro being commissioned to paint the Last Supper about ten years later.

For Duke Sforza, The Last Supper painting was the centerpiece of his planned mausoleum at the recently completed Dominican Church.

The Last Supper was painted for the refectory of the Dominican monastery. Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan. At the time, having a Last Supper painting on the refectory walls was popular as it allowed the monks and nuns to eat their meal in the presence of Jesus’ last meal.

Leonardo da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper on a refectory wall would not have been that unusual, but this painting is iconic because of how Leonardo painted it.

The Last Supper mural was supposed to take only a year to complete, but Lenardo was a notoriously slow and thoughtful painter; he started it in 1494 but did not complete it until 1498.

Leonardo was known to paint one day from dawn to dust but then not show up to paint for 3 or 4 days in a row. This type of work was totally beyond the understanding of the Convent prior, who asked Duke Sforza to intervene and try to push Leonardo to work faster.

Leonardo told the Duke that if the Convent prior continued to hound him to finish the mural, he might use the prior’s face as his model of the Apostle Judas, who betrayed Christ.

Leonardo da Vinci never did make good on his threat that he would paint the Convent prior of the Judas who betrayed Christ. We know that he had a tough time deciding how to paint Judas and what Judas should look like, and he was not able to find a suitable model for Judas.

Leonardo wanted a mature person who also had the mark of treason to be his model for Judas; we have no evidence that the Convent prior was the model for Judas in this mural.

Leonardo da Vinci And The Last Supper Painting Inspiration

Leonardo chose to paint The Last Supper showing the exact moment that Jesus told the disciples that one of them would betray him. One of the exciting aspects of this painting is that Leonardo tried to show the personalities of the apostles and their reaction to Christ, telling them that one of them would betray him,

In the painting, he shows each apostle’s different reactions according to their personalities. Leonardo, a scientist who studied the human body, believed that each man’s posture, gesture, and expression would appear in their personalities.

The painting of The Last Supper is not just of Christ and the apostles around the table at The Last Supper, but it is also a work of art that depicts the personality and reaction of the Apostles.

Because The Last Supper painting is filled with a host of emotions from the Apostles and Christ, it is also a very complex artistic study of emotions that centers on betrayal. In this case, the betrayal was that someone in that room would betray Christ.

The King James Version of the Bible states this about Christ and the betrayal. It was when Jesus made this proclamation to the Apostles, Leonardo used it as a setting for this painting. The King James version on the Bible says this about the moment when Christ told the Apostles one would betray him:

20 Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.

21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

22 And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?

Matthew 26:20-22 (King James Version Of The Bible)

This exact moment in history inspired Leonardo to paint this painting. He did not paint after Christ told Judas Iscariot he would betray him, but instead, he painted it when the apostles were not sure who had betrayed Christ, but they knew at that moment the betrayer was sitting among them.

Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, Christ And The Apostles

At first, Leonardo’s version of The Last Supper seems to be very neatly arranged. There is a sizeable extensive tale, and the Apostles are all on his right or left. But the painting itself is filled with symbolism and emotions.

Listen To Our Podcast About The Story Of The Last Supper below or by clicking here.

The Renaissance Influences With Greek And Roman Art

Here are some essential aspects of the painting:

Jesus Christ In The Last Supper Painting

In Leonardo’s painting of The Last Supper, Jesus Christ is in a traditional red and blue robe at the center of the table; Christ also has a beard.

We do not see in the painting the halo above Christ’s head. Placing a halo above Christs’ head would have been very common during this time.

Instead, we see Christ is in front of a window, and the light of the window almost gives an illusion of a halo. Some have also said that Leonardo did not paint the halo as he wanted to show the viewers that Christ was still a human being and had not yet endured the pain and suffering of being crucified on the cross.

Jesus is also gesturing towards a glass of wine and bread to show us the importance of the communion or sacrament.

Jesus’ expression is also of significance as his head is lowered, and there is a reference about him which is in deep contrast to the noticeable agitation of the apostles. There is a calmness and serenity to Jesus during this agitation of the apostles on his right and left.

The Apostles In The Last Supper Painting

The Apostles’ reaction in The Last Supper painting is one of the unique things about this classic painting of Christ. Each of the apostles seems to have different reactions.

Here are some of the noticeable reactions that the apostles give in the last supper painting.

The Position of Apostles in Painting
  • James – James also known as James The Great, is to Christs left around the table and he seems to throw his hands up as if in total disbelief.
  • Thomas – Thomas that is also known as Doubting Thomas is right by James and seems to point upward to Heaven as if not to believe or to doubt what he is actually hearing.
  • Peter – Peter has a knife in his hand that is used to symbolize the fact that later he will cut off the ear of a solider when he attempts to arrest Jesus.
  • John – The Apostle John is sitting at Christs right and almost seem to swoon or cry out loud.
  • Judas – Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus is holding on his purse or his award of silver coins he got for betraying Christ and he is backing away from Peter.

All the other Apostles around the table seem to grieve, debate or whisper among themselves to find out who will betray Christ. And in the center of all the reactions and commotion, Christ sits there very calmly, almost as if He is saying, I know this is my destiny and fate.

The Story Of A Criminal And Judas

There is a story of who Judas is in this painting; this story is not verified as the truth is we have no concrete records to know who the model was for Judas Iscariot in The Last Supper.

Leonardo was looking for the perfect model of Judas when he heard about a man who was a hardened criminal in a local prison. He visited the man and felt his face was the perfect face for Judas.

He asked the prison warden if the man could come and sit for him as a model for Judas at the Last Supper. The warden agreed and sent the prisoner with chains and two guards for him to go to sit as a model for the painting.

For days the man sat with his stony and hardened face as a model for Leonardo. When he finished painting Judas, he showed his final work to the prisoner.

Upon seeing the work, the prisoner broke down in tears and cried and said to Leonardo, “do you not remember me?” The prisoner then exclaims that years earlier, he had sat as a model for Leonardo as his model for Christ.

Whether that story is true or not, it does make for a good story as to how Leonardo was able to paint the face of Judas in the Last Supper Mural. We do know that Leonardo had a hard time deciding how to paint the face of Judas

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci continues to be one of the most important works of art ever painted about Christ’s Last Supper with the Apostles.

Anita Louise Art is dedicated to art education, great artists, and inspiring others to find and create their art. We love art that uplifts and inspires. #ArtToMakeYouSmile! #ArtToMakeYouHappy!

If you are interested to see any of my art, you can find out more by clicking here. If you are interested in what inspires me and my paintings, you can discover more by clicking here.

We have a free newsletter and would love you to be part of our community; you can subscribe to the newsletter by clicking here. If you have any questions, I would be happy to talk to you any time. You can reach me, Anita, by clicking here.

Subscribe to our Anita Louise Art YouTube Channel filled with great videos and information by clicking here.

Did Michelangelo And Leonardo Know Each Other?

Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci knew each other and were considered bitter rivals. The two men knew each other, but they did like each other. They were both asked to do a commission on the Council Hall of the Palazzo Vecchio.

By clicking here, you can learn more by reading Did Michelangelo And Leonardo Know Each Other?.

What Did Leonardo da Vinci Contribute To Medicine?

Leonardo da Vinci contributed a lot to the medical field of study. His work contributed to our understanding of anatomy, medical physics, biomedical engineers, and neuroscience. He was fascinated with the human body as an artist and as a scientist.

By clicking here, you can learn more by reading What Did Leonardo da Vinci Contribute To Medicine?.

Anita Louise Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Louise Hummel. I am an artist and a blogger. I paint mainly oil paints. I love to paint women, animals (mainly dogs and cats), and abstracts. I use a lot of gold and silver leaf in my paintings. I also love to blog about anything to do with art, business, Procreate, and all the wonderful artists that inspire me.

Recent Posts

What Inspired Leonardo da Vinci To Paint The Last Supper?