The Last Supper, featured in this jigsaw puzzle, is probably Leonardo De Vinci’s second most famous painting, being only slightly less well known than the Mona Lisa. This painting portrays the night before Jesus was to be crucified, when he informed his 12 apostles that one of them was going to betray him. You can see the individual reaction of each apostle with emotions running the gamut from shock, to anger, surprise and sadness.
The Last Supper is actually a wall mural measuring nearly 30 feet long and 15 feet high. The mural is located in a monastery in Milan, Italy. Ludovico Sfoza commissioned The Last Supper for his family mausoleum. De Vinci finished the mural over a period of three years from 1495-1498. It is located on the back wall of the refectory in the building. Because of the dry wall it was painted on the work was doomed to start flaking quickly. Attempts to restore it were made multiple times, starting in 1726.
Michelgano Bellotti tried to repair missing portions of The Last Supper via oil paint and then used varnish on the entire mural. This did not work as well as planned and in 1770 Giuseppe Mazza redid Bellotti’s work by painting most of the mural. The painting suffered further damage when a doorway was cut through the wall in the mid-1700s, as can be seen in the jigsaw puzzle. The refectory was later used as a prison and an armory in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
In 1821, Stefano Barezzi attempted to move the painting, but failed because it was not a true fresco. The Last Supper lived through WWII despite its building being hit by a bomb in 1943. Knowledge of art restoration had significantly increased by the latter part of the century and in 1978 a comprehensive attempt to bring The Last Supper back to its former glory was begun by Pinin Brambilla Barcilon. This meant doing a number of things like controlling the area the painting was in by bricking up the windows and limiting the time visitors could see it to only 15 minutes. This restoration was completed in 1999.
The Last Supper’s restoration was controversial since it changed some of the colors from the original as well as some of the facial shapes. Given that the painting has existed for over half a millennia, we should be grateful that the piece is still viewable at all. Few works of art have such a rich and storied history.