Giovianni Folo after Leonardo DaVinci. "Amen Dico Vobis Quia Unus Vestrum Me Traditurus Est." [The Last Supper].
New York: G.A. Radtke & Co., 1890s. Engraving. 19 x 36 (platemarks). Extremely wide margins at top and bottom. Light soiling in margins, especially at corners. Very good condition.
A superb engraving of one of the most famous images in Western Art, Leonardo DaVinci’s “Last Supper.” Started in 1452, the mural was done with tempera paint over dry gesso and pitch instead of the more common fresco technique. As a result, it began showing signs of deterioration almost immediately. Humidity, time, and poorly done past restorations had left it almost in disrepair. Fortunately, a more recent restoration project has restored to a slightly less fragile state.
Also, ridiculous modern theories, made to sell books and movies, threaten to take away from the purity of Leonardo’s original vision. Yet with all the condition problems and falsehoods about it, nothing can detract from its true beauty and genius. What is accomplished is the perfect example of Renaissance balance and composition. Christ, in the middle, begins a series of triangular forms due to the positioning of his outstretched hands. These compositional triangles (or circles, rectangles, etc.) are used throughout Renaissance art because a pure geometric form provides the viewer with visual balance and serenity. The use of the number three is also purposeful. Obviously indicative of the Holy Trinity, Leonardo has three windows, the Twelve Apostles (including John, not Mary Magdalene), are all grouped in three, and the above mentioned compositional triangles each have three sides.
Other exceptional devices he uses are that of perspective and optical illusion. The horizon line is at Christ’s head making Him the absolute center. The panels along the walls and the lines on the ceiling and floor enhance this perspective. Though the scene is thought to have taken place at night, Leonardo set it during daylight hours since it would be viewed mainly at this time. What this does is create an optical illusion, or trompe l’oeil, that the room is larger than it actually is and that Christ and his followers inhabit the same space as the viewer.
This particular engraving, by Giovianni Folo (1764-1836), is a superb version of the painting. Folo was a neoclassical engraver who became known for his works after the Old Masters. One thing that Folo does is include Christ’s feet which were an original part of the painting but was tragically taken out in 1652 by the addition of a doorway. Through everything it has endured, this masterpiece has remained a timeless and compelling work.