Discovering the Most Famous Painting in the World
By Ross King
Walker & Company, $28.00, 336 pages
“The Last Supper was the triumphant discharge of the debt that his genius —da Vinci’s— owed to history”, writes author Ross King on the epilogue of this his last published work. Indeed, The Last Supper is a landmark in art history, the beginning of the High Renaissance and the most famous paint in the world, challenged for this title only by yet another of Leonardo’s paintings: Mona Lisa.
In the British tradition, author Ross King delivers a solid biographical/historical work that unveils with detail the story behind the famous painting without ignoring the need of an inviting and entertaining read.
The story flows through Leonardo’s persona. However, the early biography of the master is barely discussed, since the purpose is to the artist’s circumstances during the creative period to the final creation of his masterpiece.
But King goes well beyond a simplistic chronology of events. Masterfully, he explains a complex story, linking concisely religion, politics and the social realities of the era with Leonardo’s creative process. He does this without compromising the narrative one bit. Instead, he provides a pleasurable read.
Mr. King successfully addresses the wide spectrum of readers that may have interest in the story. He provides vast detail about Leonardo’s artistic influences and limitations, painting techniques, materials utilized and the whole process of deterioration and restoration The Last Supper suffered throughout the years.
The uncover of many myths surrounding the masterpiece will please those interested in popular history and popular culture, as the author sharply addresses every single one of them, including those made popular by the movie The da Vinci Code.
The reader interested in the scholar aspect of this book will be satisfied by the exhaustive research the author obviously performed with passion and method. However, this book is probably not detailed enough to be considered academic, since it has been written for a wider, more curious than scholar audience.
While the book contains several photos and drawings, the reader may find that additional graphical material could have enhanced the reading significantly. This is perhaps the one criticism one may have about this very well constructed, educational, compelling and engaging book. A great read.
Reviewed By Alberto Ambard