Would you like to travel in Italy with a theme? If so, here’s my guide to the most important Last Supper paintings from Renaissance Italy. I tell you about 20 of these ethereal masterpieces, the famed artists who painted them, and where to find them in Italy.
The Last Supper was an incredibly popular subject matter for Italian artists. It’s the most famous supper in history, painted over and over. It’s a most dramatic moment in Western hagiography — when Jesus announces that one of the twelve apostles gathered for his final meal will betray him.
Last Suppers are set the day before the crucifixion of Jesus, known as Good Friday. It’s the cosmic hour of despair. There’s tribulation, shock, gravitas, confusion, silent states of being, psyches agape. Jesus bestows the Eucharist on humanity with a primitive, cannibalistic “Take, eat; this is my body; Drink … this is my blood.” He offers a new commandment, “Love one another.”
How is an artist to get all this into a painting? That was the challenge. During the Renaissance, Last Suppers, also called cenacolas, were statement pieces. They were generally executed at the pinnacle of an artist’s career.
Last Supper paintings appear almost exclusively on the end walls of dining rooms (refectories) of convents and monasteries. They always highlight, in different ways, the hero (Jesus) and the villain (Judas) through iconography and placement in the scene. Jesus’ best friend, St. John, is usually shown passed out on Jesus.
When one says “Last Supper,” most people immediately think of Leonardo da Vinci and his renowned masterpiece in Milan. But Last Supper paintings flourished in the Renaissance. Leonardo was exposed to many famous paintings in Florence before he even lifted a brush. Florence has the world’s largest number of Last Supper paintings.
20 Must See Last Supper Paintings of the Italian Renaissance
Let’s travel through Italy and take a look at all the most significant Last Supper paintings. We’ll go to Florence, Rome, Venice, Siena, Padua, and Assisi.
I examine the top 20 Last Suppers in chronological order, from earliest to latest. That way, you can see how the artistic styles evolved over time — from the very Early Renaissance to the High Renaissance to Late Renaissance Mannerism — and see how the artists influenced each other.
1. Giotto, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, 1303-05
Padua’s Scrovegni Chapel is one of the world’s greatest art works, and an easy day trip from Venice. Giotto painted a cycle of 39 exquisite frescos depicting the lives of Mary and Jesus in 1303-05. It’s a precious masterpiece of Italian art, as stunning in person as the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museums.
Giotto was the greatest painter of the 14th century. His Scrovegni frescos are considered one of the first examples of “modern art,” marking the first departure from the Gothic-Byzantine style. Giotto’s work profoundly influenced subsequent Renaissance painters.
Giotto sets the final meal in a bare ascetic room, decorated only with slender columns. The apostles are realistically drawn. They sit on simple benches on both sides of the table. They’re distinguished by their robe colors, which interrupt the monotony of the image.
In Giotto’s The Last Supper, unlike others, no one is looking at the viewer. As usual, John is slouched on Jesus’ breast. In a yellow robe symbolizing deception, Judas takes food from the bowl, which signifies his betrayal. The apostles anxiously glance at each other. The mysterious moment is overhung by silence.
Click here for my complete guide to visiting the magnificent must see Scrovegni Chapel.
Address: Piazza Eremitani 8, Padua
2. Pietro Lorenzetti, Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi, 1320
The 13th century Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is one of Italy’s best known churches.
Its frescos are significant because, like Giotto’s work, they mark the transition from the Gothic period of art history to the early Renaissance. All the most famous artists of the day came to paint the walls of the basilica.
The highlight of the lower church is Giotto’s frescos in the Chapel of Santa Maria Maddalena. But the lower church also houses a Last Supper fresco by Sienese painter Pietro Lorenzetti. It’s part of a fresco cycle on an archway to the left of the main altar.
It’s a rather wild and innovative Last Supper, painted in naturalistic manner. Previous Last Suppers featured a staid setting and rather immobile and inert figures. Lorenzetti adds a richly decorated room with a complicated hexagonal ceiling and sculpted angels.
The room is encircled with a starry sky. Lorenzetti even adds a side room, extra figures, and animals. His cat may have inspired the cat found in Ghirlandaio’s subsequent Last Supper in San Marco Monastery.
You have to hunt for Judas. He’s not identified with the usual black halo. The tip off? He’s reaching for the same piece of bread as Christ.
Address: Piazza Inferiore di S. Francesco 2, Assisi
3. Duccio, Siena Cathedral, Siena, 1325
Siennese artist Duccio di Bouninsegna painted his The Last Supper as part of 26 scenes for the reverse side of a large altarpiece. On the front is Duccio’s Maesta, the most famous Italian painting from the International Gothic period and the most precious art work ever created in Siena.
The altarpiece was commissioned for Siena Cathedral. The scenes show episodes from Christ’s Passion, which depicts events from Palm Sunday to Easter. The altarpiece was dismantled in 1711. Most of the individual panels are in the Museum of Siena Cathedral, the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.
Duccio is credited with being one of the founders of Western art. Even though his work resembled the traditional style of Byzantine art with gold backgrounds illuminating various religious scenes, he also added realistic human emotions. His figures have a certain tenderness, a trend that anticipated the Renaissance. There are also snippets from every day life to underscore the point.
Like Giotto and Lorenzetti, Duccio’s interpretation of The Last Supper shows the disciples sitting around the table. Some of their backs are to the viewer. Later painters experimented with various ways of placing all the disciples on the same side of the table so their faces would be visible.
Here’s my complete guide to visiting the Siena Cathedral complex.
Address: Piazza del Duomo 8, Siena
4. Taddeo Gaddi, Convent of Santa Croce, Florence, 1360s
Taddeo Gaddi was Giotto’s most important student, collaborator, and godson. Gaddi dedicated thirty years to the decoration of the Santa Croce refectory, between 1334 and 1366.
The thing that leaves you speechless, even before you’re able to locate The Last Supper, is a kind of large “Christmas tree” loaded with characters and inscriptions. It’s the Tree of Life, full of religious iconography and surrounded by four scenes of miracles.
The Last Supper is set in a strip along the bottom. It’s the oldest surviving Last Supper painting in Florence. For the first time, the dinner table is horizontal and Judas is isolated on one side, opposite Christ, without a halo.
Gaddi’s fresco was damaged in the great flood of Florence in 1966. But experts were able to remove it intact from the wall and significantly restore it.
Here’s my complete guide to the Basilica of Santa Croce.
Address: Piaza di Santa Croce 16, Florence
5. Andrea Orcagna, Santo Spirito, Florence, 1360-65
Santo Spirito is famed architect Filippo Brunelleschi’s second church in Florence, after the Basilica of San Lorenzo. Built in 1440, the church is a pivotal work of the early Renaissance. Brunelleschi was one of the first architects to use perspective and geometry, breaking away from outdated medieval church styles.
Santo Spirito’s old Augustinian refectory has an incredibly ancient The Last Supper fresco with a large crucifixion scene painted above it. But it’s in terrible condition and fragmented. Only a few of the apostles are partially conserved.
Another refectory contains a Last Supper fresco by Bernardo Poccetti from the 16th century. There’s also a crucifix attributed to Michelangelo in the church.
Address: Piazza Santo Spirito 30, Florence
6. Fra Angelico, San Marco Monastery, Florence, 1442
San Marco Monstery is a serene and irresistible hidden gem in Florence. It’s a rare opportunity to see Early Renaissance masterpieces in situ. San Marco’s claim to fame is its sublime Fra Angelico frescos. Fra Angelico’s rendition of the Last Supper is found in Cell 35 in the monks dormitories. It’s called Communion of the Apostles.
Fra Angelico’s painting is unusual for Last Supper paintings. It ignores Judas’ betrayal entirely, though Judas is identified and singled out by a black halo.
Instead, Fra Angelico depicts the moment when Chris distributes the Eucharist to the apostles and other kneeling figures. (They may be kneeling due to a seating problem.) This draws a clear parallel between the Last Supper and a Catholic Mass.
The Communion is set in a bare and simple room, consistent with the spare ethos of San Marco. Fra Angelico’s assistants likely helped him with this fresco, which is also unusual for its inclusion of windows.
Here’s my guide to visiting San Marco Monastery.
Address: Piazza San Marco 3, Florence
7. Andrea del Castagno, Sant’Apollonia, Florence, 1445-50
Castagno’s The Last Supper is an almost unknown masterpiece. This huge beauty covers one wall in the refectory of Florence’s 15th century Sant’Apollonia convent, near San Marco.
It’s a free museum, funded by the Italian state, at least for now. When you walk through the unassuming door, you leave your signature with the custodian and can enjoy sublime art without the crowds.
Castagno was part of the second generation of the early Renaissance period. As a painter, he was inspired by sculpture, particularly by the work of Donatello. His The Last Supper is a painting Leonardo probably knew, studied, and tried to move beyond. It’s considered the first fully Renaissance Last Supper.
Tremendous in its own right, Castagno’s painting imparts incredible spiritual power. It’s a wildly exciting illusory mix of forced geometric perspective, exaggerated horizontality, metaphysical symbolism, and episodic herky-jerkiness.
Dressed in intricately painted togas, each disciple looks like an ancient Roman philosopher. They have particular attributes that make them recognizable and they pose in specific ways.
The protagonist (Jesus) and the antagonist (Judas) take center stage. The betrayer Judas (no halo) is banished to the spectator’s side of the table, and almost resembles a satyr. The rest of the apostles are identified by name on the plinth at their feet.
The overall optical effect is like seeing a hallucinogenic inlaid marble table from above. There’s no light source, windows, or central majestic Jesus, so the eye darts about this uncentered mazy space.
Address: Via Ventisette Aprile 1, Florence
8. Ghiraldaio, Church of Ogissanti, Florence, 1480
Near the Arno River is one of the most fabulous churches in all of Florence — Ognissanti. The church and the convent were decorated by the greatest Early Renaissance masters of the times: Giotto, Botticelli, and Ghirlandaio. But because Ognissanti is off center, it doesn’t get many visitors and is a hidden gem in Florence.
The museum’s highlight is Ghirlandaio’s beautiful fresco of The Last Supper on the back wall of the refectory. Ghirlandaio was Michelangelo’s teacher. You can only see it for four hours (9:00 am to 1:00 pm) on Mondays and Saturdays.
As is now increasingly typical, Judas is isolated opposite from Christ and the apostles on a long horizontal table. Typical of Ghirlandaio, the fresco is filled with animation, symbolism, and vivid detail. It almost looks like a terrace garden party.
Ghirlandaio used the shape of the room to add a sense of amplified space. There’s a bit more elegance and grandeur, presaging the High Renaissance. The fancy embroidered table cloth looks like it was just ironed.
Ghirlandaio also added background scenes which shift the vanishing point, creating the illusion that the viewer is looking up. Like Castagno, Ghirlandaio placed Jesus and his disciples, except Judas, behind the table so they are facing out.
Address: Borgo Ognissanti 42, Florence
9. Ghirlandaio, San Marco Monastery, Florence, 1486
In this one, Ghirlandaio adds a cat, a symbol of deceit, behind Judas. Peter has a look of open dislike and looks ready to plunge his knife. The apostles appear to wonder, “Is it me?” Everything is carefully arranged on the table. Legend holds that the cherries spell out a rhyme.
There’s another 16th century Last Supper-style painting in San Marco’s large refectory by Giovanni Antonio Sogliano.
Address: Piazza San Marco 3, Florence
10. Plautilla Nelli, Museum of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, 1495-98
Dominican nun Plautilla Nelli created a ground breaking addition to the Last Supper genre. Way ahead of her time, Nelli was a self-taught painter who ran an all woman artists’ workshop out of the Santa Caterina convent.
In 1568, she embarked on her most ambitious project, a monumental The Last Supper painting featuring life size depictions of Jesus and the twelve apostles. She was likely the first woman in the history of the world to paint this iconic scene.
Nelli’s large canvas is remarkable for its challenging composition, powerful brushstrokes, and adept treatment of anatomy at a time when women were banned from studying the scientific field. Her painting was likely a workshop collaboration, with Nelli executing the drawings and painting the heads shown in 3/4 profile.
In 2015, Nelli’s work was painstaking restored over four years. In 2019, it was unveiled in public for the first time in 450 years. The work was installed in the Santa Maria Novella Museum, where it hangs alongside masterpieces by Masaccio, Brunelleschi, and Ghirlandaio.
Address: Piazza di Santa Maria Novella 18, Florence
11. Leonardo da Vinci, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, 1498
Ah, now it’s time for the world’s most famous Last Supper. Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper is found on the back wall of the refectory in the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. It was commissioned by Leonardo’s patron, Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan.
No painting is so familiar, save for the Mona Lisa. Previous artists had focused on the moment of identification of Judas. Leonardo instead focused on the moment before, when Jesus has just announced he will be betrayed and doubt is in the air.
In a swoosh of emotion, Leonardo captures each apostle’s unique reaction to his declaration — horror, astonishment, anger, anxiety, grief, shock, etc. Some art experts believe that James the Lesser, who is the second apostle from the left, is a Leonardo self portrait. Leonardo’s painting establishes a visual-intellectual-psychological order that hadn’t been imagined before.
READ: 24 Hours in Milan
The Last Supper is also renowned for its revolutionary use of single point perspective, which gives the 2D painting a 3D perspective. Leonardo angled the walls within the picture so that the vanishing point converges on Christ, emphasizing his importance.
The scale of The Last Supper is enormous — 29 feet wide by 15 feet tall. Not only is The Last Supper famous, it’s as renowned for its fragility as its power. It has a tortured history and, sadly, it’s in terrible condition. No one has seen the painting as it was meant to be experienced in five centuries.
A mad-scientist experimenter with materials and techniques, Leonardo loved blending colors, playing with shading (chiaroscuro) and smoky space (sfumato). For this showpiece, rather than employing stable true fresco, he used oil and tempera paint over coats of gesso and white lead.
By the time Leonardo finished in 1498, the painting was already deteriorating. It was flaking off the wall 20 years later. In 1556, Vasari described The Last Supper as a “muddle of blots.”
There have been seven documented attempts to repair the Last Supper. In 1770, the whole thing was largely repainted. At some point, a door was cut into the bottom of the painting. In 1999, The Last Supper was restored over the course of 21 years.
You’ve got to be organized and reserve in advance to see this Leonardo masterpiece. It’s kept in a special microclimate with restricted access. Advance reservations are mandatory. Here’s my guide to The Last Supper, with an analysis of the painting, practical information, and must know tips on how to see Leonardo’s masterpiece
Address: Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie 2, Milan
12. Flemish Tapestry designed by Raphael, Vatican Pinacoteca, Rome, 1500-19
While not a painting, I would be remiss not to mention the Vatican’s precious Last Supper tapestry known as Last Supper in Amboise in the Castle of Clos Lucé. The Clos Luce was Leonardo’s home in France, where he lived for four years before his death in 1519.
The tapestry was designed by Renaissance master Raphael. He attempted to faithfully reproduce Leonardo’s The Last Supper. It even has the same dimensions. The tapestry is housed in Rome VIII of the Pinacoteca (art gallery) in the Vatican Museums.
The tapestry has the same Leonardo-esque assembly of apostles at the table. It captures Leonardo’s nuances and sfumato technique. The only difference is that the scene is framed with architectural accents. The tapestry is made of silk, with gold and silver threads and a crimson velvet border.
The tapestry, which is protected by glass, was created in a Flemish workshop. Despite some hypotheses, it’s still not known exactly which artist created the work or even which factory it was woven in. The tapestry was fully restored in time for the 2019 celebration of the 500 year anniversary of the death of Leonardo.
Address: 00120 Vatican City
13. Franciabigio, The Last Supper, Convitto della Calza, Florence, 1514
Convitto della Calza was a 13th century hospital run by the Dames of Malta. They commissioned Franciabigio to paint this Last Supper in 1514 in the ancient refectory. Like most Last Suppers, it takes place at the very moment Jesus reveals a betrayal is forthcoming.
Jesus looks incredibly sad, and the apostles register confusion. The table is filled with extraordinary detail.
The world’s first art historian and fellow artist, Giorgio Vasari, reported that Franciabigio was keen on studies of perspective and anatomy. The apostles are identified by a strip running above the heads. In 2000, the painting was restored.
Address: Piazza della Calza 6, Florence
14. Raphael and Workshop, Raphael Loggia, Vatican Museums, Rome, 1518-19
Along with Leonardo and Michelangelo, Raphael was the third great artist of the High Renaissance. While influenced by Leonardo, Raphael’s work is characterized by clarity, precision, and luminescence. Unlike Leonardo, he was also extremely prolific. But his premature death at just age 37 limited his oeuvre.
Raphael did design a Last Supper for the Raphael Loggia in the Vatican, which was commissioned by Pope Leo X. A loggia is a colonnaded porch or glassed in hallway.
The Raphael Loggia has 13 bays and 52 panel paintings in the cloister vaults. Raphael designed the frescos and decorations for the vaults, including The Last Supper. The paintings are set amid grotesque frescos. The Last Supper painting was likely painted by his large team of pupils.
15. Andrea del Sarto, Monastery of San Salvi, Florence, 1525
The next stop along our Last Supper trail takes us out of the city’s historical center to the Monastery of San Salvi. This hidden gem houses Andrea del Sarto’s The Last Supper, which Giorgio Vasari described as an “Endless majesty with its absolute grace of all the painted figures.” Experts rank del Sarto’s The Last Supper second only to Leonardo’s.
Del Sarto was a painter in the High Renaissance, instrumental in the development of the Early Mannerism period. This painting shows Del Sarto at his artistic maturity, with perfect composition and vivid expressive color.
Around the table, set up with a white tablecloth, all the apostles are depicted on the same side as Jesus. A dark haired Judas sits on Jesus’ right, receiving a piece of bread. John reaches out in a tender expression, entwining his fingers with Jesus. Del Sarto’s drawings for this and other scene are in the Uffizi Gallery.
The most original part of del Sarto’s Last Supper is the upper part. Del Sarto painted a perfectly foreshortened balcony where two characters, at sunset, look over a scene below. During the siege of Florence in 1530, Charles V’s invading army spared The Last Supper for its sheer beauty.
Address: Piazza di S. Salvi 10, Florence
16. Jacopo Bassano, Borghese Gallery, Rome, 1542
The iconic Borghese Gallery is Rome’s premiere museum, a stunningly beautiful venue with in situ art. This Last Supper painting is considered Bassano’s master work and was recently restored. It’s a classic of Mannerist painting with dramatic elements, elongated figures, and bright colors.
The Mannerists departed from the perfection and classicism of the High Renaissance. Unlike the linear and smooth organization of the twelve apostles in Leonardo’s masterpiece, Bassano’s work is a disorganized scene.
Christ and his highly excited apostles are depicted in an unconventional peasant setting. This use of “real world” settings would be adopted by Caravaggio in the Baroque period.
The apostles erupt at the prophecy that one of them will betray Christ. Each item on the table is intentional, and appears as a still life. The dark lighting gives the painting a nocturnal feel.
Jesus and the redheaded disciple form the center of the artwork. The way Bassano portrays them is different from other Last Suppers. Jesus lags behind someone and is almost in the background.
Here’s my complete guide to visiting the Borghese Gallery in Rome.
Address: Piazzale Scipione Borghese 5, Rome
17. Giorgio Vasari, Museum of the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, 1546
Not just an art historian, Giorgio Vasari also decorated Florence with murals. The most famous ones are in the cupola of Brunelleschi’s dome and in the Hall of Five Hundred of the Palazzo Vecchio. But Vasari also painted a beautiful Last Supper for the Basilica of Santa Croce.
The massive 8 x 21 foot painting was severely damaged in 1966 when the Arno River flooded — a tragedy in Italian history. Vasari’s Last Supper was underwater for 12 hours. It was covered in conservation paper. But, for years, restorers were loath to touch the painting, considering it unsalvageable.
In 2010, a new team of conservators got in the act. After 9 years of restoration using cutting edge technology, the painting was triumphantly unveiled to the public. The damage was less than experts feared. If Santa Croce floods again, two winches will automatically lift the painting above the flood line.
Address: Piazza di Santa Croce 16, Florence
18. Paolo Veronese, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice, 1573
The Accademia Gallery is Venice’s most important fine arts museum. It’s housed in the former Santa Maria della Carità church and convent complex. It was built, in part, by famed Italian Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio.
The Accademia is nearly always empty. Given the quality of the museum’s collection, it’s rather shocking. The Accademia houses the world’s most important collection of Venetian painting, comparable to the Uffizi Gallery’s collection of Florentine work.
Among them is Veronese’s depiction of the Last Supper, called The Feast in the House of Levi. The title makes you think it’s not a Last Supper. But that’s what it was intended to be.
The painting is famous for its monumental architecture, incredible detail, and chaos. The cosmopolitan depiction is set in a massive three arched loggia. The actual meal is somewhat dwarfed by the grandeur. It’s more of a dinner party banquet than a true Last Supper. But Veronese was more interested in composing figures than in depicting their spiritual quality.
Veronese’s Last Supper is so extravagant and violent that the Inquisition censured it for making a mockery of the meal. Images were supposed to have a certain propriety, after all. Veronese refused to change any of the details, citing artistic license. Veronese satisfied the Inquisition by simply changing the title of the painting.
Address: Campo della Carita 1050, Venice
19. Jacopo Tintoretto, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 1594
Tintoretto’s The Last Supper is housed in the Palladian church of San Giorgio Maggiore, across the Grand Canal from San Marco in Venice. It’s located in the church sanctuary on the right wall. This Last Supper is a massive, mysterious, and unconventional Mannerist style fantasia piece.
In this painting, unlike Leonardo’s perfect perspective version, everything is askew. There are only two light sources in the very dark painting, a lamp and a halo. Transparent angels float all over the ceiling.
This Last Supper departs from the Renaissance notion that spirituality is conveyed through naturalism and idealism. Tintoretto instead infuses the painting with energy, drama, and movement. Pictoral and rationale space is largely upended.
Address: San Giorgio Maggiore Island, Venice
20. Allesandro Allori, Santa Maria Novella, Florence, 1584-97
This dynamic Last Supper is found in Florence’s Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. Alessandro Allori was the pupil and adopted son of Bronzino and an admirer of Michelangelo.
Allori was one of the last notable exponents of Mannerism, painting in a style that had become almost outmoded by the time of his death. Allori’s unique work served to inspire other artists of the late 16th Century to experiment with new styles of art. This is the final depiction of the Last Supper in a Florentine church.
Address: Piazza di Santa Maria Novella 18, Florence
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