15 (Long) Minutes With ‘The Last Supper’

By Michael Kimmelman
Published: July 13, 2011

MILAN — The setting can seem a lot like quarantine. The entrance, through several holding pens and sets of automatic doors, leads to an enormous, vaulted, semiprivate room, the patient stretched out to the right. A bedside crowd coos appropriately.

Occasionally I have joined that crowd, before Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” in the former whitewashed refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, checking in on a beloved, hospice-bound but faded relative, expecting to make the most of the allotted 15 minutes tourists are permitted. Jesus delivers his message of betrayal, as always, and the shock wave disperses his apostles above the broad white tablecloth like bowling pins. It was a rainy, cold morning the last time I stopped in to see the picture, whose fuzziness and fragility don’t altogether obscure the flashes of coral, blue and pink. I started daydreaming about waves on a Caribbean beach.

I scribbled notes about economy of form and the faraway landscape, but the image kept slipping out of focus, up there high on the wall, in the glare of spotlights, with a buzz of people around and the clock ticking.

The New York Times

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