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Leonardo and the Last Supper

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  1,578 Ratings  ·  192 Reviews
Early in 1495, Leonardo da Vinci began work in Milan on what would become one of history's most influential and beloved works of art-The Last Supper. After a dozen years at the court of Lodovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, Leonardo was at a low point personally and professionally: at forty-three, in an era when he had almost reached the average life expectancy, he had faile ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 25th 2012 by Bond Street Books (first published August 1st 2012)
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Jan 20, 2014 Christopher rated it really liked it
I don't think I'm breaking any barriers by declaring that Leonardo was a fascinating genius. Even among his peers in art history textbooks, he's a good head above (most of) the rest in talent, innovation, and WTF-ness.

This is a fun examination (although it's hard not to use the word "romp") through the life of Leonardo da Vinci, with a recurring focus on the Last Supper. Wanna know if that stuff about the painting in The Da Vinci Code was true? Well, I can tell you that it's not, dummy, but if
Jan 14, 2013 Tony rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
LEONARDO AND THE LAST SUPPER. (2012). Ross King. *****.
Mr. King has done it again – has managed to focus on a particular theme and give the reader as much information as needed to really understand it. Two of his earlier books accomplished the same thing, “Brunelleschi’s Dome,” and “Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling,” both of which I can recommend. In this work, we are led through the obligatory early life of Leonardo – as much as is known – and the reputation he acquired in the world of patr
Sep 22, 2016 Bfisher rated it liked it
Shelves: history
3 stars

One of the major events in the Passion of Christ is his last meal with his disciples. He prepares them for his departure, institutes the Eucharist, and identifies Judas as his betrayer.

During puberty, I usually ate supper looking at a print of Leonardo’s The Last Supper on the opposite wall, so I can attest that for me any mention of Christ’s last meal will always project an image of Leonardo’s painting, as it undoubtedly has for many millions of others in the last five centuries. It is a
Aug 25, 2012 Bettie☯ rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Laura, Carey and all Radio listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 26, 2012 Laura rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Dawn
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4:
Leonardo and the Last Supper tells the fascinating story of what went on behind the scenes when Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to paint what became one of history's greatest masterpieces.

Devon Van Duinen
Dec 30, 2013 Devon Van Duinen rated it it was amazing
History and Italy are two of my greatest loves, so when I got my eager little fingers on Leonardo and the Last Supper I was already excited for what was to come. And Mr. King did not disappoint. This is the first work from Ross King I have read and I have already added a few of his other similar works to my wish list.

King (perhaps from experience or sheer talent) has a wonderful ability of covering numerous aspects regarding the life of Leonardo himself, the purpose and creation of the famous pa
Jan 15, 2013 Louise rated it really liked it
Leonardo Di Vinci's reluctance to paint the walls of the Santa Maria delle Grazie is reminiscent of Michelangelo's reluctance to paint the paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel which is brought to life by Ross King in his earlier work, "Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling". This new book tells the circumstances that brought Di Vinci to this project, his life while working on it, its technical and artistic considerations, how the changing political situation in Italy both helped and hindered th ...more
Sep 27, 2012 Emily marked it as to-read
recommended by Michael Sims
I have to share the glowing advance reviews of Ross King's new book LEONARDO AND THE LAST SUPPER. And I have to mention that I'm reading the galley and I agree with them.

"This is quintessential King territory, and his uniquely detailed, far-ranging, and engrossing chronicle of the creation of this revolutionary masterpiece ... perfectly complements his best-selling Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling (2003). Himself an exceptional portraitist and craftsman, King brings
Joseph Adelizzi, Jr.
Jun 23, 2014 Joseph Adelizzi, Jr. rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 10, 2012 Deidre rated it it was amazing
The brilliant Ross King is at it again. No one does readable art history for the masses better. This time he takes on Leonardo DaVinci and the painting of the Last Supper. King doesn't truck in hype and rumor, this is the real story covering everything from his treatment of drawing hands to the food portrayed. He is a careful and scrupulous writer and his Leonardo is full of lesser known tidbits and humanizing facts. King's books aren't always the easiest to read but they are always worth the ef ...more
Joseph Raffetto
Nov 19, 2012 Joseph Raffetto rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, nonfiction
Ross King, the author of Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power and Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling, explores the life of another Renaissance giant.

This is just as much a history about Leonardo and the times as it is the “The Last Supper.” Though it is King’s desire to show that the influences of culture, commerce, food, fashion, politics, eclectic characters and religion inspired the insatiably curious artist to create one of the most masterful works of art in the history of the Western world. L
Nov 06, 2012 Converse rated it liked it

The reason Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was painting the Last Supper was that Lodovico Sforza (1452-1508) wanted to spruce up the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Graziein order to make it a fitting resting place for his family. Sforza could have such ambitions because he was determined to gain firm control over the city-state of Milan. Leonardo’s painting proved longer-lasting than Sforza’s political success, but required a lot of help to do so.
Francesco Sforza, father of Lodovicio, had

Sep 13, 2014 Kerry rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, biography
This book does a good job of treating Leonardo da Vinci as a real person rather than as a mysterious and romanticize-able genius. Unfortunately, the author seemed to find Leonardo's life not interesting enough to stand on its own and had to juxtapose it with the story of his power-hungry patron. Luckily, if you aren't into the politics of the 15th century Italian court, these sections are easy to skip. The book also overturns some myths and legends about Leonardo and states evidence about what c ...more
Charles Lewis
Feb 08, 2013 Charles Lewis rated it liked it
I wanted to love this book but I merely liked it. For those of a mathematical bent the chapters on perspective and proportion will be magical. For me they were like a sleeping potion. I also found that I was often confused about the myriad characters that moved in and out of Leonardo's life. I loved King's book on Michelangelo but even there got lost in some of the detail. In the case of the Leonardo and the Last Supper that use of detail seemed to smother a story about one of the world's great ...more
Kristie Kercheval
Sep 09, 2013 Kristie Kercheval rated it it was amazing
Who knew there would enough material to write a book about one painting? I loved this book. It's been a month since I finished and I like to re-tell some of the stories in it, like about what happened to the clay model of Leonardo's giant horse statue he never got to finish. Or how Leonardo felt at times like never really had "arrived." Or that he really just wanted to make war machinery, but always got overlooked for engineering jobs. Young Leonard had trouble focusing and finishing things, and ...more
Oct 31, 2012 Jean-Pierre rated it really liked it
Well-documented and altogether readable. The chapters toggle between the historical conditions and context on the one hand (the links between Leonardo and the various courts, the links between the Sforza family, Leonardo's painting and some other works, including the large bronze equestrian statue that was never to be) and a description of the painting (not a fresco, incidentally) on the other, with due attention to critiques, evaluations and (mis)interpretations throughout the ages, all the way ...more
Dec 30, 2012 Almeta rated it it was ok
Lots of Italian Renaissance history, related to Leonardo only because he lived during that time and his patrons were of the elite class affected by the politics. I don't think Leonardo himself much cared about the politics.

When there was discussion of how Leonardo actually worked or what his symbolism in his paintings meant, things got interesting. The history part...not my thing.
H Wesselius
Mar 03, 2013 H Wesselius rated it liked it
Somewhat disappointing. True, Leonardo and the Last Supper is an exhaustive array of detail, fact and explanation, however, it lacks coherence and focus. Without a narrative structure, King wanders from painting techniques, Renaissance politics, and even discusses Dan Brown's conspiracy theories. Without coherence, its difficult for the reader to motivate him or herself to finish the book.
Gerald Matzke
Jan 27, 2013 Gerald Matzke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read because it interweaves Leonardo's struggles with political intrigue of the day. My interest was also in life of the church during that time which led up to the time of Luther and the Reformation. It was particularly interesting to hear about the influence of Savanarola in Florence.
Jean Gobel
Dec 25, 2012 Jean Gobel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in both history and art
Recommended to Jean by: Received it for Christmas
I received this book, Leonardo and The Last Supper, by Ross King, as a Christmas gift, and once started, I could not put it down. I am not a student of classical art, so please forgive where I misinterpreted what I read. I did find Leonardo an interesting character.

This sixteenth century story is liberally woven with tales of the continual wars involving various princes of Italy, Maximilian, the Holy Roman Emperor, Louis, duke of Orleans, and Charles VIII of France for the ultimate control of It
Jan 07, 2017 Gary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most everybody knows Leonardo da Vinci and most know his painting, "The Last Supper." But as educated a man as I am, I didn't realize how little I really knew ABOUT Leonardo or how little I knew ABOUT "The Last Supper."

For instance, while Leonardo was clearly a genius, he also fit the image of the eccentric. He had a hard time completing projects (hence, the relatively small portfolio of Leonardo artworks we have). His true interest wasn't even in art, but in engineering. He was always offering
Nov 10, 2016 Anne rated it really liked it
LEONARDO AND THE LAST SUPPER, Ross King. ITALY, Florence, Milan. 15th century.

An excellent account of Leonardo da Vinci and the painting of The Last Supper on the refectory wall of Santa Maria della Gracie in Milan. The reader learns a lot about Leonardo's development of perspective and his eschewing of fresco....painting on wet plaster... instead applying tempera on dry wall. Coupled with the humidity of the site, The masterpiece began deteriorating almost from the beginning. KIng tells this st
Jan 02, 2017 Bob rated it really liked it
Learned a few tidbits about Leonardo and a lot about the painting "The Last Supper ". Interesting. The reality is nothing lasts forever.
Feb 16, 2017 Lee rated it it was amazing
Loved this book!
Filled with insights on art history, Leonardo's quest for patrons, the ebbs and tides of Italian politics, and technical details of painting.
Nicole Segura
Amazingly thorough history

This book is an amazingly thorough history of Leonardo's The Last Supper. The discussion goes on tangents to describe the political and social influences in the region which provide context for the details in the painting.
Jan 06, 2017 Terri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. King discusses Leonardo's life and times, especially concentrating on his painting of the Last Supper. Interestingly, we see a Leonardo who isn't as focused as I once believed.
Occhi Aperti
Jan 22, 2017 Occhi Aperti rated it it was amazing
A must read for Da Vinci enthusiasts. Ross King does it again.
Jan 25, 2017 Deb rated it did not like it
After binge watching "The Medici" on television, I was drawn back into the Renaissance by Ross King. This time, the city is Milan. Leonardo da Vinci has been commissioned to paint a mural for the dining hall of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. He is not delighted by this, since he had been working on the biggest equestrian bronze attempted since the ancient world. But Charles VIII is invading Italy on his way to the Kingdom ofNaples and Il Moro needs the bronze for canons. Since the Duke ...more
Debbie Johnson
It was interesting and kind of sad to think how close we have come to loosing such a great masterpiece! The author is always so through, I have read several of his other books. The amount of research done by Ross King is amazing.
Amy Everett
Jan 05, 2017 Amy Everett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating Story of the Artist and His Art

This book told the story of Leonardo da Vinci against the backdrop of his (many) artistic frustrations and the machinations of his patron, Lodovico Sforza of Milan. Well-written and compelling, this book painted (haha, a pun!) a thoughtful picture of greater Renaissance Italy, especially its religious and political upheavals. Recommended for those interested in da Vinci, Renaissance paintings, and the history of Italy.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Ross King (born July 16, 1962) is a Canadian novelist and non-fiction writer. He began his career by writing two works of historical fiction in the 1990s, later turning to non-fiction, and has since written several critically acclaimed and best-selling historical works.

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“At times Leonardo was troubled by his lack of achievement. As a young man he appears to have developed a reputation for melancholia. “Leonardo,” wrote a friend, “why so troubled?” A sad refrain runs through his notebooks: “Tell me if anything was ever done,” he often sighs. Or in another place: “Tell me if ever I did a thing.” 1 likes
“That one of history’s greatest brains struggled with amo, amas, amat should be consolation to anyone who has ever tried to learn a second language.” 1 likes
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