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Book tickets for The Last Supper

The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci, Milan, Italy - visitor information

Henry James called it ‘an illustrious invalid’ while Aldous Huxley called it ‘the saddest work of art in the world’. Neither were talking about the subject matter of one of the world’s most important and moving works of art, but about centuries of appalling neglect, which saw Leonardo’s Last Supper assume the condition of a fly-blown poster on a subway wall.

You’ll find the painting in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. In a permanent process of restoration, due to its state of decay, first sight of it makes it clear exactly what James meant. People visit the painting ‘with leave-taking sighs and almost death bed or tiptoe precautions’ he noted, and such is its peeling, crumbling state that you cannot believe the painting will still be intact should you choose to visit again.

A large part of the blame lies with Leonardo da Vinci himself of course. Quixotically he chose to complete his masterpiece with oil paint (a far less reliable medium in Renaissance times than today) rather than with the fast-drying and stable watercolour fresco technique. Within five years the painting was crumbling. Two hundred years later, Napoleon’s troops were using the wall and painting for target practice. A Second World War bomb flattened most of Santa Maria, leaving only the wall bearing Leonardo’s painting … a miracle perhaps?

Two hundred years of restoration beg the question: how much of what we see is actually Leonardo’s work? And restoration, of course, was markedly more intrusive in past years than is the fashion today.

And yet it still fascinates visitors, a fascination only increased by its central role in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. The parlous state of the painting makes it all the more tantalising trying to work out whether that is a man or Mary Magdalene. The publication of the book seems to have achieved the impossible, to make The Last Supper Leonardo’s most famed and viewed painting, outstripping the Mona Lisa.

It’s a dramatic spectacle, taking up a whole wall of the church, the life-size depictions of the figures contributing to the scene’s drama. The figures of the disciples are grouped in a triangular Trinity formation around Christ. In a peculiar trick of perspective, the walls of the room within the canvas seem to recede from the walls of the church itself. All lines focus on the soon-to-be-crucified Christ at the centre.
And even through the crumbling oils and patchy restoration, the brilliance of Leonardo’s work remains. He scoured the streets of Milan for more than two years, searching for faces to make the visages of the disciples. The monks complained, after months of work, that the face of Judas Iscariot was still not in place. The arch and acerbic Leonardo, never a great fan of the clergy, replied that in all Milan he had been unable to find a countenance sufficiently soaked in evil. But if pushed he would use the face of the prior. He got there in the end. Vasari writes that Judas’s face is ‘the very embodiment of treachery and inhumanity’.

Be warned that this is a very popular attraction, and it’s advisable to attempt to book well ahead of your visit … or prepare to be disappointed.

Book tickets for The Last Supper

 

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Coronavirus in Italy

IMPORTANT ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS

Please note that in order to use your tickets you MUST be able to provide one of the following:

  • - Covid19 Green Pass certification (in digital or paper format) able to attest - together with a valid identity document - that they have received at least one dose of one of the vaccines authorized by the EMA or AIFA (Comirnaty by Pfizer-BioNtech, Vaxzevria by Astrazeneca, Janssen by Johnson & Johnson and Moderna)
  • Exemptions: COVID-19 Green Certification is not required for children excluded by age from the vaccination campaign (under 12 years of age) and those exempt on the basis of appropriate medical certification.
  • - Visitors from Israel, Canada, Japan and the United States - Vaccination certificates issued by the health authorities of these countries (complying with EU Recommendation no. 2021/912 of 20 May 2021) will also be accepted, but must include the identifying data of the person and data regarding the type of vaccine and date(s) of administration. Please note that certificates will be accepted if they are in Italian, English, French or Spanish. If the certificate is not issued in bilingual form and not in one of the four languages indicated in the Order of the Minister of Health of 18 June 2021, it must be accompanied by a sworn translation.

This documentation must be presented at the entrance when the body temperature is checked.

Security queues to check the Green Pass requirements may be a bit long so do allow plenty of time to ensure you do not miss your entrance slot. Have your Green Pass and ID ready for viewing. Whilst they may seem long, queues do move fast so please be patient. Thank you for your cooperation.

PLEASE NOTE: If you do not have a Green Pass and a valid identity document, you will not be able to access and your ticket will not be refunded. For further information www.dgc.gov.it

Due to Coronavirus many venues and events are applying strict entry conditions. These will vary by venue but common examples are:

  • You must wear a compliant CE mask (Ordinanza RT n.48) which covers both mouth and nose.
  • Disposable single-use gloves must be worn at all times.
  • Hands (or gloves) must be cleaned with a disinfectant gel on entry.
  • Your temperature (which will be measured on entry) must not be above 37.5°C.
  • Visitors must maintain a social distance of 1.8m at all times.
  • There may be a maximum visitor limit in place - in some cases this may lead to delays

Any conditions may be changed without notice as Italian regulations are updated.

If you are denied entrance because of failure to meet entry conditions, no refunds will be available.