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Leonardo da Vinci for Biography for Kids: The Last Supper

March 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Art History, Artists Biographies

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In our Leonardo da Vinci for Biography for Kids: The Last Supper, we will explore the amazing story of one of his most important paintings: The last supper. The Duke of Sforza commissioned him to paint a fresco directly on the wall of the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria della Grazie.

A fresco is the most difficult painting technique to master, but the most durable. The painter only has a few hours to paint over the wet surface of plaster, before it dries. A fresco painter needs to work quickly and Leonardo didn’t want to be rushed. He was very meticulous and he reached for perfection in each of his projects.

Leonardo da Vinci The Last Supper for kids

Instead of using the traditional fresco procedure, Leonardo decided to use a new technique of his own. He applied the plaster and he let it dry, and then he sealed it. Before he started this big project, he spent years, just looking for his models and sketching them. Once he was happy with his designs; he transferred the drawings, fixing the giant sketches to the wall, and pricking the outline of the figures, leaving tiny marks over the surface. Then he used a bag with charcoal powder to leave a dark line.

In the traditional fresco technique, the painters used a water base tempera that was then absorbed by the wet plaster, it was embedded in the wall, making it almost weather proof. Leonardo prepared a mixture of tempera and oil paint that allowed him to work at his own pace. He painted from top to bottom, to avoid stain what he had already finished.

It was a painting like no other. He accomplished not only an outstanding expression of his characters, but he also reached great color richness, and an amazing depth through the use of perspective.

Unfortunately, in this technique, the paint was on top of the wall surface, and sadly, Leonardo’s experiment didn’t work very well. The painting didn’t support the pass of time; it started to peel off just twenty years after he finished painting.

But his technique was not the only problem, through the centuries, the refectory suffered several floods, a door was opened in the center of the wall, it was used as a stable, a prison, and an armory, and during the Second World War, a bomb cracked the wall and the refectory was destroyed.

The painting almost disappeared. In its 500 years of existence, it endured nine attempts of restorations that made more damage than help. The last one started in 1978, for over two decades scientists and artists cleaned the mold and peeled the many layers of paint that covered the original painting. Now, we can see a version that probably resembles the original work, but in which the hand of Leonardo no longer appears.

This article is part of my series about Leonardo da Vinci where you will find information about his life, facts and anecdotes of his science and artistic activities and his inventions.

These fully illustrated series are especially design for kids, to give them a complete understanding about his work. Please check our archive in the link below to have access to all the articles related to Leonardo da Vinci.

 Welcome to leonardo da Vinci wonderful life, please remember to leave your comments and questions below.

One of Leonardo da Vinci most famous works is the Last Supper. The Duke of Sforza commissioned him to paint a fresco directly on the wall of the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria della Grazie.

A fresco is the most difficult painting technique to master, but the most durable. The painter only has a few hours to paint over the wet surface of plaster, before it dries

A fresco painter has to work quickly and Leonardo didn’t want to be rushed. He was very meticulous and he reached for perfection in each of his projects.

He spent years, just looking for his models and sketching them.

Leonardo da Vinci The Last Supper for kids

Once he was happy with his designs; he transferred the drawings, fixing his giant sketches to the wall, and pricking the outline of the figures, leaving tiny marks over the surface. Then he used a bag with charcoal powder to leave a dark line

Leonardo decided to use a new technique of his own, to paint the wall, he let the plaster dry, and then, he sealed it. He prepared a mixture of tempera and oil paint that allowed him to work at his own pace. He painted from top to bottom, to avoid stain what he had already finished.

It was a painting like no other. He accomplished not only an outstanding expression of his characters, but he also reached great color richness, and an amazing depth through the use of perspective.

Through the centuries, the refectory suffered several floods, a door was opened in the center of the wall, it was used as a stable, a prison, and an armory, and during the Second World War, a bomb cracked the wall and the refectory was destroyed.

The painting almost disappeared. In its 500 years of existence, it endured nine attempts of restorations that made more damage than help.

The last one started in 1978, for over two decades scientists and artists cleaned the mold and peeled the many layers of paint that covered the original painting.

Now, we can see a version that probably resembles the original work, but in which the hand of Leonardo no longer appears.

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