Curious Last Supper Art plus How to Buy The Last Supper Painting Tickets

After scrambling for The Last Supper painting tickets to view The Last Supper da Vinci, COVID-19 scrapped my trip to Milan. Instead, I took a virtual tour of curious Last Suppers around the world. Come along with me…

The Last Supper of Jesus, one the Ubiquitous Subjects in the History of Art

12 men sit with Jesus at a long table with three-D effect of room. Each man has emotion in his face and body in this The Last Supper painting
Reservations Only: You need The Last Supper painting tickets to view the masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci in Milan, Italy. Also known as L'Ultima Cena or Cenacolo (Upper Room) (Completed 1495-1498)

My biggest regret about scrapping my trip to Milan last month was canceling my hard-to-get reservations to view The Last Supper mural by Leonardo da Vinci. Because Italian officials allow only 30 people into the space at one time, The Last Supper painting tickets are in short supply–and high demand. Shortly before the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy, I’d invested hours shopping for the tickets online. I missed buying through Cenacolo Vinciano, the official ticket office, and so sifted through loads of tour companies. To help you save time, I’ll share my tips for procuring The Last Supper painting tickets at the end of this article.

Art experts at The Getty say the last meal of Jesus is one of the “ubiquitous subjects in the history of art.” During my travels, I’ve been blessed to see fascinating yet sometimes shocking renditions. La Última Cena (The Last Supper) at the Cuzco Cathedral in Peru could be my favorite. The painting portrays Jesus and his twelve disciples ready to partake of two Inca delicacies: roasted guinea pig and chichi, an indigenous fermented corn drink.

Shocking? To some, but not to the audience for which it's created

Photo of The Last Supper painting in the rustic Spanish Colonial style. On the table surrounded by Jesus and his 12 disciples, a guinea pig lies on a golden platter with paws in the air.
La Última Cena, The Last Supper painting at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin (Cusco Cathedral) in Cusco, Peru. (Completed 1753)

In this version of La Última Cena, Jesus blesses the bread (the first Eucharist.) Beardless John sits at his side, Judas holds a pouch of silver coins, and the guinea pig lies on a golden platter with paws in the air. You’ll see most of this imagery in The Last Supper paintings around the world—bread and wine, John sitting next to Jesus and Judas sheepishly holding the bag of bribe money.  Outside of Peru, you won’t see guinea pig as the main course, but in its place is fish or lamb.

The Last Supper paintings tell the story of Jesus’s last meal before his death reported in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Matthew 26:26-29 recounts:

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” NIV

Unusual Last Supper menu items

The Last Supper painting at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin in Cusco depicts the roasted guinea pig as the supper and chichi as the wine. Another unusual Last Supper menu item is the corn seen on a platter to the left of the wine challis. Corn, domesticated in the Americas, was not introduced to Europe until the late 15th century. Marcos Zapata, aka Marcos Sapaca Inca, a Quechua artist, blended local culture into the traditional The Last Supper painting in 1753.

The Last Supper da Vinci named one of '1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die'

Jesus sits at center of table, 6 disciples gesturing at each side. "Lord, is it I?" Colors are brighter in thei copy of The Last Supper Da Vinci. This image helps in Encountering God through art
Tongerlo Last Supper. This early 16th-century copy of The Last Supper da Vinci was helpful during the 20th-century restoration of the original, which was in poor condition. (Completed 1506-07)
Not only is The Last Supper da Vinci named one of the 1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die, but the masterpiece has many backstories. One such chronicle is that French King Louis XII so coveted the painting that he sought to take it back to France. Since The Last Supper Da Vinci in Milan is painted onto the surface of a wall, that was impossible. Hence, the king commissioned a canvas copy that ultimately ended up in Tongerlo Abbey in Belgium. (Seen above.) Today art experts debate whether Leonardo had a hand in painting the Tongerlo canvas version or not. One thing that is sure, the copy aided experts during the 21-year-long restoration of the original completed in 1999. During the restoration, experts discovered menu items previously hidden from view. Da Vinci’s original rendition of the The Last Supper included sliced eel garnished with orange slices.

We Almost Lost The Last Supper Da Vinci

Scaffolds and metal braces protect The Last Supper Da Vinci during the Allied bombing of Milan in 1943.
We almost lost Leonardo’s The Last Supper in August 1943 when Allied bombs slammed into the courtyard east of the Dominican refectory* where The Last Supper painting resides. Three years earlier, Milanese art officials installed sandbags, wood scaffolds and metal bracing (see the photo above.) The bomb blew out the east wall of the refectory, and some say it was nothing short of a miracle that the north wall did not collapse along with the roof. Read more of the story at Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis by Robert M. Edsel. *a refectory is a dining hall in a monastery or university.

Viewing The Last Supper painting can be a spiritual experience

Painting of Last Supper with Jesus in the center again. Colors are warmer, people seem more real in this 'The Last Supper painting'
Última Cena by Juan de Juanes. Prado Museum in Madrid. (Completed 1555-1562)

I find it spiritually uplifting to view art when I travel. Memorable visits to Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, Spain, have changed the way I look at God, myself and the world. In the amazing rendition of The Last Supper displayed there, Jesus raises the Eucharist, John is at his side and Judas clutches his moneybag. Can someone tell me why religious artists often depict Judas with red hair?

Juan de Juanes created this painting between 1555 and 1562 for the main altarpiece of Iglesia de San Esteban in Valencia, Spain. If you study the picture, you can see why art experts say that The Last Supper Da Vinci inspired this Juanes version. Juanes, called the Spanish Raphael, adds a basin and water pitcher for foot washing, and a challis modeled after Valencia Cathedral’s relic, which some believe Jesus used at the Last Supper. The Last Supper painting is one of many pieces of art at the Prado Museum that has rocked my world.

Why is John passed out?

The viewpoint for The LAst Supper painting is from above. The table is oval rather than the previous rectangular tables. Jesus has a halo. A lamb is on the platter.
The Last Supper altarpiece panels from the High Altar of the Charterhouse of Saint-Honoré, Thuison-les-Abbeville, France | The Art Institute of Chicago (Completed 1490-1500)

In this French altarpiece in The Art Institute of Chicago collections, a lamb is plated for this Passover meal, Judas with his coin purse has spilled his salt—a bad omen—and beardless John seems passed out next to Jesus.

Why is John often depicted as sleeping? He’s sleeping as an illustration of the words found in The Gospel of John’s description of the Last Supper. “One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.” John 13:23 NIV. Apostle John referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” in his gospel.

The apostle with his hand in the bowl

In early Christian art people look one dimensional. This mosaic shows Jesus on the left of a table set for dinner with bread - that looks like round circles (no dimension) and fish in one of 6 bowls on the table. I cannot tell what is in the other 5 golden bowls, but it is black and tubular. Eels?
Last Supper depicted in Byzantine style mosaic located at the Cathedral of the Assumption, Monreale, Sicily (Completed 1180s)

In preparation for my now-nixed Italian journey, I read about the acre and a half of mosaics inside and around the Cathedral of the Assumption in Monreale, Sicily. Built in the 1180s, the cathedral is a must-see for me and others moved by religious art, architecture and stories of the human spirit. At the end of the 12th-century, cathedral builders embraced Byzantine, Arab and Norman design elements.

In this early depiction of the Last Supper, fish is served for dinner, Jesus holds the bread while the disciple whom Jesus loved reclines on his shoulder. I can’t tell which of the stiff figures is Judas, but I would go with the apostle with his hand in the bowl. What do you think?

How Would COVID-19 'Stay at Home' orders affect The Last Supper?

Andrew, Jesus, and Simon (L-R) order in to help out during COVID-19 Stay at Home Orders. They’re practicing social distancing as well. Photo shared by the ‘Great American Takeout.’

OK, so the image above might seem blasphemous to some, and I pray I don’t offend anyone of our UNSTOPPABLE community out there. But even during Holy Week, we need a laugh during these tough stay-at-home times. Also, I feel it is somewhat of a miracle that I found this image – Twitter delivered it to me out of the blue.

I’d been researching for this The Last Supper da Vinci article and searching for public domain images.  For hours, I’d been looking at zillions of versions of The Last Supper paintings. Out of nowhere, this image popped up, and it caught me by surprise. I immediately downloaded it from Twitter – and here’s the weird thing – then it promptly disappeared. I could not find it again. Thank you, Lord, for making me laugh just when I needed it.

Does anyone know the brand name of the takeout that Simon the Zealot is eating? Could it be the patron of the piece of art?

Tips for procuring The Last Supper painting tickets

12 men sit with Jesus at a long table with three-D effect of room. Each man has emotion in his face and body in this The Last Supper painting
Reservations Only: You need The Last Supper painting tickets to view the masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci in Milan, Italy. Also known as L'Ultima Cena or Cenacolo (Upper Room) (Completed 1495-1498)

Let me be clear: you cannot view The Last Supper painting by Leonardo da Vinci without a reservation.

As I said at the beginning of this article, I missed buying The Last Supper painting tickets through Cenacolo Vinciano, the official ticket office. I simply waited too long to make reservations. Thirty-four days in advance was not long enough to get the particular date and time slot that I needed.

Based on my experience, I recommend that you make reservations through the Cenacolo Vinciano website two-three months before your visit. Now, because of COVID-19, you can make reservations one month in advance; however, we don’t know if The Last Supper painting by Leonardo da Vinci will be open for viewing by then.

Best Price for The Last Supper painting tickets

When you buy through Cenacolo Vinciano, the official website for Leonardo’s Last Supper Museum, the cost of the ticket is €15 (about $16.23). You can add a short introductory tour for €3.50 (about $3.80).

If no tickets are available for your preferred times, you can shop tour companies as I did. I spent hours comparing tours and prices, reading reviews and checking available time slots. My window of time was narrow, so that accounted for more time while I scrutinized timetables.

Eventually, I procured The Last Supper painting tickets from Wine Tours from Milan through Trip Advisor for €51 (about $55.) Fortunately, I chose the option not to pay until a week prior, so I was able to cancel without a fee when I decided to avoid Milan and divert to Rome.

Many of you know that after all those reroutes, I ended up canceling my trip to Italy. Note: free cancellation on some tours is an advantage for booking through TripAdvisor. All tour operators are different, so check the details.

Regardless of how you procure your reservation, bring the reservation or ticket along with your ID when you arrive at least 10 minutes in advance of your reserved time. You will only have 15 minutes to spend with the masterpiece, so you definitely don’t want to be late.

UNSTOPPABLE insider tip: An official Last Supper Painting app, entitled Cenacolo Vinciano Official App, is available at the App Store and Google Play. Use the FREE app rather than renting headsets at the museum.

RELATED ARTICLES:

How to Use Art to Experience God While Traveling

The Truth About How Coronavirus Affects the Way I Travel

Revelations at a Benedictine monastery near the León Cathedral

READING LIST:

1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die

Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis

Rick Steves Snapshot Milan & Italian (Rick Steves Travel Guide)

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10 thoughts on “Curious Last Supper Art plus How to Buy The Last Supper Painting Tickets”

  1. Hi Stacey, Thanks for this! I love the mysterious version with the social distancing. I can see the KFC bucket, but have no idea what the other one could be.

    I saw the Last Supper in Milan in 2003. Tickets were needed even then, and I’m not sure how far in advance we bought them, but definitely before we left home. They gathered everyone in an anteroom, let the people who had already had their 15 minutes out through another door, and then we were allowed in all at once. I found it very moving to see this mural I had read so much about, and that was probably one of the first famous paintings I had ever seen a copy of.

    We were scheduled to leave for Italy from San Francisco next Monday. Staying home now, of course. even from San Francisco.

    Reply
    • 17 years ago txt were required for “The Last Supper.” WOW! Thanks for sharing that you found it very moving to see the mural. Sorry you had to cancel your Italy trip, too. What were you planning to do there?

      Reply
  2. Thank you for sharing an interesting article.The social distancing Last Supper brought a smile to my face. Stay Safe!
    Ciao

    Reply
  3. Thank you! This is wonderful, fascinating and so appreciated. I know my sister will love the your knowledgable commentary and the art work.

    Will share on FB!

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for forwarding my email to your sister, Karen. Thanks, too, for sharing this post on your Facebook – I think its timely for Holy Week

      Reply
  4. Hello Stacey,
    I really enjoyed this interesting “staying-at-home travel” through those different versions of the “Last Supper”.
    This virtual trip is fantastic…
    Thank you so much !
    Holy and happy Easter,
    God bless and take care !

    Reply
    • Thanks for your kind words, Annie. Is there an interesting Last Supper depiction in your hometown of Paris? or your favorite? Joyeuses Pâques, Stacey

      Reply
  5. This was so interesting Stacey! so to your question of why Judas is often depicted with red hair, I always heard it was a symbol of degeneracy. Not sure if that is true or not but makes some sense!!

    Reply
    • Thanks for giving me some insight into the red hair thing. European painters often depicted people from the north (Vikings AKA Scandinavians) with red hair. That’s my ancestry – so I was a little worried about the red-haired Judas thing. Didn’t want to be called out. But when it comes down to it, if we search deeply, we might admit that we find a little bit of Judas inside. He didn’t have the tools to fight the inner temptations. I want to make sure that I do. Though sometimes I fail miserably.

      Reply

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