On the trail of Leonardo in France
On the trail of Leonardo in France

On the trail of Leonardo in France

The enigma of the tapestry of the Last Supper

14 May 2019
Conference Hall, Vatican Museums

As part of the celebrations dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci, in conjunction with the exhibition “Leonardo. Il San Girolamo dei Musei Vaticani”, inaugurated 21 March last in the Braccio di Carlo Magno, the Pope’s Museums dedicate a new homage to Leonardo’s genius on the fifth centenary of his death. “On the trail of Leonardo in France. The enigma of the tapestry of the Last Supper” is the title of the study day scheduled to take place on Tuesday 14 May, at the conclusion of the restoration of the celebrated tapestry now conserved in the Vatican Pinacoteca and inspired by Leonardo’s Last Supper.
The valuable cloth, woven exclusively in silk, gold and silver threads, has the same dimensions as the fresco produced by the Renaissance master in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. Although a faithful reproduction with regard to the arrangement and position of the figures in the Leonardesque assembly of the apostles gathered around the Lord’s table, the Vatican tapestry has, however, a different background: the scene is framed within a rich Renaissance architectural setting. The textile work may have been produced in Flanders, commissioned by Louise of Savoy and her son Francis I, King of France.

Lasting a year and a half, and carried out entirely within the Vatican Museums Tapestries and Textiles Restoration Laboratory, the conservation intervention carried out under the direction of Alessandra Rodolfo not only restored the work to its original splendour, but enabled it to be dated differently, posing the evocative hypothesis that it may have been produced after February 1516, therefore during Leonardo’s presence in France (1517-1519). However, given the lack of documentary evidence, the matter of the author of the cartoon and its manufacture remains unclear. 
Surrounded by a particularly symbolic and solemn aura, the newly-restored tapestry will return to France from 7 June to 2 September, to be displayed in the exhibition “Leonardo da Vinci's the last supper for Francis I, a masterpiece in gold and silk” arranged specifically in the place, the Castle of Clos Lucé in Amboise, where the great Leonardo da Vinci died five hundred years ago, that famous 2 May 1519.