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Leonardo and the Last Supper Hardcover – 30 Aug 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (30 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747599475
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747599470
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 413,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


[A] richly entertaining tale of how Leonardo came to paint The Last Supper. King, who had previously written acclaimed accounts of Brunelleschi's Florentine dome and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, has an infectious relish for the gaudy, brutal and brilliant world of the Italian Renaissance (The Mail on Sunday)

King draws attention to overlooked iconographic details such as the supper menu, and he profits from the mural's misfortunes in a brilliant history of its afterlife as restorers perform cosmetic surgery on it (The Observer Books of the Year)

King deftly explains how Leonardo developed each element as well as his quirks and those of his patron Ludovico '"il Moro" Sforza. This account is a good deal more vivid than the ghostly fresco itself (The Guardian, Books of the Year)

The story of Leonardo's creation of the work has now found an ideal chronicler in Ross King ... King has the gift of clear, unpretentious exposition, and an instinctive narrative flair (Guardian)

Extraordinary (Sunday Times 'Must Reads')

Enthralling **** (Daily Mail)

Mr. King gives us a gripping account of how that painting was created and how it represents, in his view, one of the few times in Leonardo's life that he managed to "harness and concentrate his relentless energies and restless obsessions" ... King deftly deconstructs the ways the painter broke with tradition and stamped a familiar and much depicted subject with his distinctive vision (Michiko Kakutani, International Herald Tribune)

King writes evenly and engagingly . We learn a great deal about the middle-aged artist, and his persistent fear of failing to complete commissions . King deftly situates both his subject and the immense appeal of the work in our own day ... The book will bring new insights to all who have visited Milan, and will encourage others to make that pilgrimage (Church Times)

Forget Dan Brown's reading of the painting - King shows expertly how perspective and patronage shaped one of the most famous paintings in the world (Sunday Herald)

Book Description

The Last Supper is an image familiar to everyone, the story of its execution is not. In Leonardo and the Last Supper, the best-selling author of Brunelleschi's Dome tells that extraordinary story

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In this `biography' of the Last Supper fresco, King takes a very leisurely stroll around the subject of the painter and this particular painting. This is, then, a good book for the general interested reader since it is, in lots of ways, not really as specialised in terms of topic as the title suggests.

King gives a good overview of the political situation in Europe though might perhaps give more detail of the political and military negotiations than some readers might want or expect. He also reviews Leonardo's life-story and interests, the make-up of his studio, his assistants and other assorted details.

I enjoyed this best when it concentrates on the subject: so the analysis of the gospels from which Leonardo takes his narrative, the drawings, the development of the fresco and so on. I was less interested in some of the rather frequent digressions which feel very much like padding: that Leonardo was left-handed because... he was born left-handed; that putting up a scaffold was dangerous and inconvenient for the friars, and that it needed to be big enough to accommodate Leonardo and his assistants...

So there is certainly much to enjoy in this book - personally I would have preferred it to have been tighter and more concentrated on the Last Supper itself, but others may well like better this relaxed amble through the world of Leonardo.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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Format: Hardcover
Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King, hardback published by Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-0-7475-9947-0, price 20.00 available from [...]

Whilst I would not call this a stunning art book in that it is not full of large reproductions, it is a very entertaining and informed story. Ross King obviously likes his job as storyteller of artists, he weaves his tale well. Leonardo lived that's for sure, with perhaps something of a designer's temperament - never satisfied and always moving onto the next invention. I never knew that he left things unfinished nor that only 15 of his paintings survive. Ross pays attention to detail, meticulously and reveals all we ever need know about Leonardo. He raises questions, dismisses some that others have raised. I felt like I was back in the 15 century at Leonardo's elbow. The story is told amidst the intrigue of Italian politics of the time since Sforza was Leonardo's patron. The text is supported by a few sketches and small reproductions of paintings. A brilliant piece of work that kept me entertained in small does over the course of a fortnight. Recommended for all lovers of art. This review first appeared on yarnsandfabrics website.
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Format: Hardcover
(4.5 stars) With unusual insight and great enthusiasm, Ross King has written several books about monumental works of art, placing them in historical context, characterizing the artist, and emphasizing what makes these artistic achievements unique. Each of these books about an artwork - the dome of a cathedral, the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and the Last Supper mural - has received international recognition for its literary style, the accuracy of the research, and the excitement King generates as he details the trials and troubles the artist faced while creating his work for a sometimes less-than-adoring public. Winner of the Canadian Governor General's award for 2012, Leonardo and the Last Supper begins in the chaotic year of 1494, and through flashbacks establishes Leonardo's early youth in Florence, his family life, and his apprenticeship with Verocchio, with whom he worked for about seven years. Though he had as much raw talent as anyone in Italy, Leonardo was a frustration to his patrons. He was rarely able to complete his commissions.

In 1482, Leonardo moved to Milan under the patronage of Lodovico Sforza, Milan's ruler, for whom he worked for the next sixteen years. Again, however, his commissioned paintings were not finished. The famous "Virgin of the Rocks," begun in 1483, remained unfinished because Leonardo failed to paint it according to the description given in his contract. In 1484, Lodovico contracted with Leonardo to create a monumental bronze equestrian statue honoring his father. That project, too, was delayed for years and never finished.

In 1494, he received the contract to paint the Last Supper, a work measuring fifteen feet by twenty-nine feet, on the refectory wall of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very informative - not only about The Last Supper, but also about much that is not strictly relevant to that fresco: not only does he tell us a lot about Leonardo’s life, his personality and his other activities, but he devotes many pages to the kaleidoscopic alliances made by Leonardo’s patron, Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, and to the many campaigns that were fought in Italy during the five or so years in which Leonardo was working on the Last Supper.

While a great deal is known about Leonardo, there is also much that is unknown, and King frequently uses phrases like “Leonardo must have known”.

But the main part of the book - his analysis of the iconography of the painting, his descriptions of the techniques that Leonardo employed which contribute to the sad decay of the fresco and the history of the painting - are excellent.
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