Since my work has found me in Milan quite often, one of my resolutions is to experience a tiny bit of the city each time.
On one of these trips, with my meetings ending mid-day, I decided that seeing Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper would be a perfect afternoon outing. I was staying at an airport hotel and was told that I could take the train straight to the city center. The front desk attendant asked if I had tickets to see the painting and when I said no, she showed me a map of alternate things to do in Milan. The reason? Tickets to see The Last Supper need to be booked in advance and are sold out months ahead of time.
Crestfallen but with an afternoon to spare I headed straight to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie to see if miraculously I could find a solitary ticket waiting for me. No such luck. The woman at the counter told me that not only were tickets sold out for that afternoon, they were sold out for weeks. As I walked away looking wistfully at the church, a bus load of Japanese tourists descended. Their tour guide, an Italian lady saw me and asked why I was looking so sadly at the church. When I told her, she asked me to wait for a few minutes and then emerged triumphantly a few seconds later and thrust a ticket in my hand. I asked her how much I should pay her and she just asked me to go on! Here I was doing the unimaginable, a miracle in a church!
As our turn was called, I went into the refectory of the dimly lit church where ahead of me stood the Da Vinci masterpiece. Confession time: I knew about the painting, what it looked like, what it depicted, but did not know that it was a mural which took up an entire wall of the church. Hence my immediate reaction to the painting depicting the last meal shared by Jesus and his disciples was one of disbelief. Was this a wall with multiple paintings? As I moved closer, the image became clearer , revealing the expressions on the faces of each of the attendees after Jesus had announced that one of them would betray him. Apparently Da Vinci spent years walking the streets of Milan to find the perfect faces to depict each character and his depiction of the evil Judas is a standing testament to his research. I searched for the face of Mary Magdalene (a new hypothesis by Dan Brown), tried to place each of the disciples and then tried to see if my eyes could trace the musical notes that someone recently hypothesized as hidden in the painting. Coming closer and moving afar revealed different details, nuances and expressions that clarified why this particular rendition of the last supper stood out from every other one painted before and after.
The ongoing deterioration and restoration of the fresco has left a painting which is apparently a far cry from the original that Da Vinci created. But, regardless of its condition, the painting is indeed a spiritual journey into a night that decided the course of events to come.
If work or life finds you in Milan, please do make reservations to go see The Last Supper. Tickets can be reserved at: http://www.lastsuppertickets.com/