The lived Cenacle

The first shades of the "Cenacle" impressed the wall of the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie towards the end of the fifteenth century, at the request of Ludovico il Moro.

The Duke was determined to transform that small and elegant convent into the Sforza funerary chapel; a quiet corner of Milan, adjacent to the walls of the Castle.

The restructuring work began and the works thus assigned: Donato Bramante was entrusted with the reconstruction of the tribune, and with Leonardo the painting on the north wall of the refectory. The object of the representation, at Ludovico's request, was a representation of the Last Supper, a famous scene in the religious art style of the sixteenth century.

When the first touches began to settle on the wall, and the colors revived the gray tone, a crowd of onlookers began to undertake a slow procession that would be repeated until the completion of the work: they came and went from the convent, some stood, while others sat silently on either side of the refectory, reverently observing the artistic vagaries of Leonardo.

For the time, the work of a painter was an event of common interest, but Leonardo's attitudes had something singular and extravagant. Some days he could be found at work from the first light of dawn, intent on painting late into the night, sometimes forgetting even to eat. Other days he remained motionless to contemplate the work, without ever placing any brush on the wall. Other times he went to the refectory to complete only a small detail, a shade, an expression or a slight hue; then he went away, leaving the friars of the convent baffled, who were uneasily murmuring about him.

The strange attitude prompted the Prior to ask Ludovico il Moro to solicit the artist, urging him to complete the work. "I wish he had never stopped the brush, that he did the work that they were digging in the garden," said the prior to the Duke, with a certain distrust of Leonardo.

Ludovico promised the Prior that he would talk to him, and a few days later he summoned Leonardo to the Court, but what must have been a rigid warning turned out to be a rather affable chat. Leonardo explained to the Duke that the time required by creativity cannot be reconciled with the time marked by the hourglass. "Some details are missing," said Leonardo at last, addressing the Duke. Two heads were missing and the work would have been completed: that of Jesus and that of Judas. However, if he had not been allowed to continue the work smoothly, the face of Judas would have taken on the appearance of the prior. The allusion amused the Moro, who, despite being shortly depressed by the death of his beloved, added the artist with a severe exhortation, including the reasons for it.

The Cenacle was completed at the beginning of 1498. Leonardo had chosen an innovative technique for the time: the painting was carried out on two layers of plaster, to which he had added white lead. It was finally used for fat tempera, mixed with linseed oil and egg. Despite the artist's calculations, the technique turned out to be unsuccessful, however, and twenty years later the painting was already beginning to peel off.

If you observe the Last Supper today, you will notice the absence of a portion, part in which the feet of Jesus were represented. It is said that in 1652 "the Cenacle" was so badly reduced that the monks had no qualms about opening a door in the wall of the refectory, demolishing the area now missing.

The Cenacle was subjected to other damages over the years. The first documented restorations date back to the mid-700s. In a first attempt, the missing parts were covered with oil paint, and the entire surface was painted over again. A singular testimony, reports an abnormal restoration attempt towards the end of the same century. The new restorer, after eliminating what had been done from the first renovation, reproduced the faces of the apostles at will. The man, now three-faced from the conclusion, was stopped by a movement of public indignation that prevented the completion of the works.

In the 1800s, while the air of the Revolution was swinging the seat of the French sovereign, the anticlerical troops, arrived in Milan, scraped their eyes from the faces of the apostles and used the refectory as a prison room. The war scarcely touched the artistic legacy of Leonardo, and in the following years, during the bombardments of the First World War, a part of the convent was demolished but the wall of the "Cenacolo", and the refectory, remained miraculously intact.

It will be only during the second half of the 900s, from the 70s to the end of the millennium, that an intense restoration will bring the original face of the Last Supper back to life. The movements of the soul, and the original faces of the apostles, hidden for long years under the rough white lead, emerged from the authentic core of the painting. The drama of the Last Supper was brought to the surface and the narrative of a moment was returned to Leonardo's faithful and immortal story.

Lucrezia: the seasons of art

"Ja Pishu Kartin; I write with the paintings "

Lucrezia's artistic journey is a cycle, a succession of seasons.

Her research began during the studies at Brera’s Academy of Fine Arts, in which she observed some object of magical thought: talismans, amulets, ex voto. They are artifacts of common use, imbued with spirituality and sacredness, which for Lucrezia, as an artist, are linked to a faith of a secular nature.

The question that arises from the analysis is significant and mysterious: when is an object sacred without being religious?

“Through my work I try to respond to issues; or I try to ask viewers for questions"

This question led the artist along a pilgrimage in search of the duality of presence and absence, which led her to travel far away, through the symbolism of Russian culture, where her encounter with iconography took place. The religiosity and sacredness of artistic style and icons have marked a focal point for the investigation: a connection between religion (abundance and presence) and sacredness (absence and elevation).

The iconography is the writing of the image, performed in the artistic field through the symbol; a painted or drawn sign that manifests itself at the moment of the act. Consequently art, as written, is associated with a definite grammar, which allows its interpretation. According to Lucrezia the study of grammar is the key to understanding art: the works do not speak but it is possible to accustom the senses to grasp their meaning by understanding the syntax.

"Through the grammar of art I like to see how everything comes back: The origins of things and how we relate to them today. It is a historical research that I do between presence and absence, between past and present. "

These elements have accompanied Lucrezia through her journey and towards the second season of her artistic cycle, to explore more deeply the duality and understand the true task of art: the evocation.

Duality is represented by the intangible encounter between presence and absence. An agreement of entities that is expressed in art and also in other disciplines such as photography: the imperceptible point that divides tangible and intangible. However, art finds stability in education, in the perception of labile balance between the two essences. The balance is perceptible in the representation of a flower: a rose will not be painted as the perfect reproduction of the real, but its artistic representation will instead try to evoke its freshness, perfume, and beauty.

"When I combine the points I like to turn around, and from the finish, look at the start. It is fascinating to see how far the human mind can go. "

The link is visible in every artistic style and Lucrezia investigates its origin beyond the superficial layer. From rock carvings, to the Renaissance, to contemporary art. Therefore a historical research takes place between past and present, a survey on the evolution of interpretation. The displacement and the fear that were once shown through monsters, chimeras and supernatural entities, are today represented through the exploration of the human soul with contemporary art.

"The works of art can never be started and finished. Spolvero is an arrival but also the departure for a new exploration "

Like art in history, the artist's journey is also part of a process beyond the limits of the beginning and the end, a constant investigation into the search for truth.

Spolvero is a lunar phase in the succession of Lucrezia's seasons, a point that arises from the encounter with Andrea, the other protagonist face. In the combination of duality of the elements, the artist's own work represents an arrival but also a departure, to explore art through a new point of view, that originates at the crossroads between art, technology and passion.

The iron city

Let's remain suspended for a while in the 15th Century. Leonardo is a young apprentice in Verrocchio's workshop; the road that will lead him from Florence to Milan is still hidden in the artist's desire for initiative.

While in the Republics of Venice, Genoa and Florence, power was jostled behind the scenes by the ubiquitous forces of bankers and merchants, a reigning court was present in the Duchy of Milan, which distinguished it from the mercantile character of other Italian cities.

For over two hundred years the banners of the Visconti's first, and of the Sforza later, had ruled over the peaks of the city walls.

The two dynasties had infused the military tradition into the Milanese duchy. The banner with the Visconti basilisk, which was then crossed in a tortuous dance with the Sforza's crowned eagle, reiterated Milan's martial nature aloud; the rulers proclaimed themselves dukes by hereditary right and sanctioned the authority of the men of arms.

In 1450, at the sunset of the Visconti dynasty, it was time for a new influence for the city, the domain of the Sforza family. Francesco, the first of the lineage to reign over Milan, was one of the seven sons of the mercenary captain and leader Muzio Attendolo. It will be the beginning of a tormented hereditary passage, stained by the blood of the same descendants of the family.

The duchy of Francis lasted until his death, when his son took the place of inheritance; a position that was short-lived: he was assassinated a few years after his appointment. The title therefore passed to the seven-year-old son Gian Galeazzo. Unaware of the unfortunate destiny that was waiting for him, Gian Galeazzo let himself be influenced by the despotic magnetism of his uncle, Ludovico Sforza, known as il Moro, a vigorous and strong man, obscure as the complexion that distinguished him, determined to attract power to himself.

The fearsome uncle had devised a plan to condition his nephew, an intent that would slowly lead him to become the future duke of Milan. Ludovico had tried to discredit the legitimate heir, making him appear effeminate and spoiled in the eyes of his subjects, besides preventing him from giving birth to a successor, who would have frustrated the efforts to win the title. But the plans did not go as hoped and in 1491 Gian Galeazzo had a son, Francesco.

The ways of power, however, sometimes take dark roads, and a few years later Gian Galeazzo died in the throes of malaise, pain, fever and atony; the symptoms of poisoning. Ludovico Sforza, hidden in the shadows, emerged as the new Duke of Milan, bypassing his due successor, obtaining the appointment of dux and reaching the pinnacle of political supremacy.

Ludovico, aware of the illegitimacy of his position, tried to legalize his power with art and culture, filling the court with scholars, artists and great personalities. The strong temperament and the warlike character of the Moro did nothing but attract the ambitious Leonardo, in search of a protector who would consider his military engineering projects.