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delle Grazie." "The master finished the Virgin (this is a slip of Vasari's, for there is no Virgin in the Last Supper) and Judas, a perfect type of treachery and cruelty. As to the head of Christ, he left it unfinished.
Another sixteenth century writer, the Milanese Lomazzo, has completed Vasari's story by explaining why Leonardo left the head of the principal figure unfinished. After endowing the two saints, James the Greater and the Less, with the beauty we still admire, even in the ruin to which the Cenacolo is reduced, Leonardo, despairing of rendering the head of Christ in accordance with his ideal, took counsel with his old friend Zenale, who made this memorable speech to him: "Leonardo, the fault thou hast committed is one of which God only can absolve thee. It is of a truth impossible to conceive of faces more lovely and gentle than those of S. James the Greater and S. James the Less. Accept thy misfortune, therefore, and leave thy Christ imperfect as he is, for otherwise, when compared with the apostles, he would not be their Saviour or their Master." Leonardo took his advice, and this is why the head of Christ was left a mere sketch. x
The drawings for the Last Supper are few in number, and yet its process of evolution, as everything tends to show, was laborious in the extreme. I will mention one study only for the general arrangement, a sketch in the Louvre, which shows us four persons seated at table; one seems to be accusing another, with outstretched finger; the accused meets the accuser's gaze steadily; the two others listen unflinchingly ; a fifth mounts on the table as if to protest.
In a drawing in red chalk in the Accademia at Venice, a mediocre, yet perfectly genuine work, the composition is more vivacious and less rhythmical than in the painting. Judas is seated at the outer side of the table; the beloved disciple rests his head on the cloth, making a vacuum in the grouping, the others gesticulate and declaim. The apostle last but one on the right is the only one to undergo little, if any modification. As to the Saviour himself, his face and attitude are alike
1 Does not this incident recall the story of Timanthes, who, despairing of rendering the grief of Agamemnon at the sacrifice of Iphigenia, veiled his face?
unremarkable. A little lower down is a study of Christ seated, his left hand outstretched, the first finger pointing to a dish, his right laid upon his breast with a somewhat theatrical gesture. We may mention that both in his studies for the Adoration of the Magi and for the Last Supper, Leonardo drew his figures naked, in order to observe the play of movements, just as he drew nearly all the apostles without beards, the better to note the play of facial expression. This sketch shows through how many stages the composition passed before completion.
These drawings are followed by notes, in which Leonardo indicates the attitude he intends to give to each apostle: "One, in the act of drinking, puts down his glass, and turns his head to the speaker; another, twisting his fingers together, turns to his companion, knitting his eyebrows; another, opening his hands, and turning the palms towards the spectator, shrugs his sholders, his mouth expressing the liveliest surprise; another whispers in the ear of a companion, who turns to listen, holding in one hand a knife, and in the other the loaf he has cut in two; another, turning with a knife in his hand, upsets a glass upon the table; another rests his hands upon the table, and looks; another, gasps in amazement; another leans forward to look at the speaker, shading his eyes with his hand; another, drawing back behind the one who leans forward, looks into the space between the wall and the stooping disciple."