The story of the painting of The Last
Supper is extremely interesting and
instructive, and two incidents connected
with it afford a most convincing lesson on
the effects of right thinking or wrong
thinking in the life of a boy or girl, or
of a man or woman.
Leonardo, the noted Italian
artist painted the Last Supper. It took
seven years for him to complete it. The
figures representing the twelve Apostles
and Christ himself were painted from
living persons. The life-model for the
painting of the figure of Jesus was chosen
When it was decided that Leonardo would
paint this great picture, hundreds and
hundreds of young men were carefully
viewed in an endeavor to find a face and
personality exhibiting innocence and
beauty, free from the scars and signs of
dissipation caused by sin.
Finally, after weeks of laborious search,
a young man nineteen years of age was
selected as a model for the portrayal of
Christ. For six months Leonardo worked on
the production of this leading character
of his famous painting. During the next
six years Leonardo continued his labors on
this sublime work of art. One by one
fitting persons were chosen to represent
each of the eleven Apostles -- with space
being left for the painting of the figure
representing Judas Iscariot as the final
task of this masterpiece.
This was the Apostle, you remember, who
betrayed his Lord for thirty pieces of
silver. For weeks Leonardo searched for a
man with a hard, callous face, with a
countenance marked by scars of avarice,
deceit, hypocrisy, and crime. A face that
would delineate a character who would
betray his best friend.
After many discouraging experiences in
searching for the type of person required
to represent Judas, word came to Leonardo
that a man whose appearance fully met his
requirements had been found in a dungeon
in Rome, sentenced to die for a life of
crime and murder. Leonardo made the trip
to Rome at once, and this man was brought
out from his imprisonment in the dungeon
and led out into the light of the sun.
There Leonardo saw before him a dark,
swarthy man his long shaggy and unkempt
hair sprawled over his face, which
betrayed a character of viciousness and
complete ruin. At last the famous painter
had found the person he wanted to
represent the character of Judas in his
painting. By special permission from the
king, this prisoner was carried to Milan
where the picture was being painted. For
months he sat before Leonardo at appointed
hours each day as the gifted artist
diligently continued his task of
transmitting, to his painting, this base
character representing the traitor and
betrayer of our Savior.
As he finished his last stroke, he turned
to the guards and said, I have finished.
You may take the prisoner away. As the
guards were leading their prisoner away,
he suddenly broke loose from their control
and rushed up to Leonardo, crying as he
did so, "Leonardo, look at me. Do you not
know who I am?" Leonardo, with the trained
eyes of a great character student,
carefully scrutinized the man upon whose
face he had constantly gazed for six
months and replied, "No, I have never seen
you in my life until you were brought
before me out of the dungeon in Rome."
Then, lifting his eyes toward heaven, the
prisoner said, "Oh God, have I fallen so
low?" Then turning his face to the painter
he cried, "Leonardo, look at me
again for I am the same man you painted
just seven years ago as the figure of
Is the story true? Maybe not....
However, it teaches so strongly the lesson of the
effects of right and wrong thinking of an
individual. He was a young man whose
character was so pure and unspoiled by the
sins of the world, that he represented a
countenance and innocence and beauty fit
to be used for the painting of the
representation of Christ. But during the
next seven years, following a life of sin
and crime, he was changed into a perfect
picture of the most notorious character
ever known in the history of the world.
Documentary evidence indicates Leonardo
began "The Last Supper" in 1495 and was
finished with it by 1498. In 1499;
he fled Milan ahead of the invading French
and didn't return to the city until 1506.
There are no records of whom Leonardo used
as models for the figures in "The Last
Supper," but he was painting on a wall,
undoubtedly from sketches, so it's
unlikely he would have had models sitting
in a "studio" for "days" while he "painted
The prose version bears a strong
similarity to the following bit of verse
(of unknown origin):
Two pictures hung on the dingy wall
Of a grand old Florentine hall --
One of a child of beauty rare,
With a cherub face and golden hair;
The lovely look of whose radiant eyes
Filled the soul with thoughts of Paradise.
The other was a visage vile
Marked with the lines of lust and guile,
A loathsome being, whose features fell
Brought to the soul weird thoughts of
Side by side in their frames of gold,
Dingy and dusty and cracked and old,
This is the solemn tale they told:
A youthful painter found one day,
In the streets of Rome, a child at play,
And, moved by the beauty that it bore,
The heavenly look that its features wore,
On a canvas, radiant and grand,
He painted its face with a master hand.
after year on his wall it hung;
'Twas ever joyful and always young --
Driving away all thoughts of gloom
While the painter toiled in his dingy
Like an angel of light it met his gaze,
Bringing him dreams of his boyhood days,
Filling his soul with a sense of praise.
His raven ringlets grew thin and gray,
His young ambition all passed away;
Yet he looked for years in many a place,
To find a contrast to that sweet face.
Through haunts of vice in the night he
To find some ruin that crime had made.
At last in a prison cell he caught
A glimpse of the hideous fiend he sought.
a canvas weird and wild but grand,
He painted the face with a master hand.
His task was done; 'twas a work sublime
And angel of joy and a fiend of crime --
A lesson of life from the wrecks of time.
O Crime: with ruin thy road is strewn;
The brightest beauty the world has known
Thy power has wasted, till in the mind
No trace of its presence is left behind.
The loathsome wretch in the dungeon low,
With a face of a fiend and a look of woe,
Ruined by revels of crime and sin,
A pitiful wreck of what might have been,
Hated and shunned, and without a home,
Was the child that had played in the
streets of Rome.
A note from Mark Harden which many of you
may not know, so I thought I'd share it
Leonardo had no last name, "da Vinci"
merely meaning "of Vinci", a reference to
the city of Vinci from which he came. In
other words, "Da Vinci" is NOT his last
name as we would think it today.
Thanks Mr. Harden!
about this tale at
Urban Legends Reference Pages
Parts of the above taken from Urban
Legends Reference Pages and is used with
their written permission