The drawing is connected with the painting by M. Muntz and Mr. Berenson. According to the latter it represents the moment when Christ announces that one of the Disciples shall betray Him, and the sketch on the same page, in which the figure of Christ is seen pointing to the dish, shows that Leonardo " repented of the too eloquent attitude of the Christ and repented at once."
The other figures help the attribution, or certainly do not forbid it. That to the right seems naturally to suggest S. John. The one beyond springing up has some resemblance to the head in a similar position in the sketch at Venice for the whole composition, although the action there is much modified. The figure on the extreme left, who has buried his face in his hands may also be the characterization of an Apostle. But so complete is the contrast between the two sketches on the same sheet, the one of Christ pointing to the dish and the " too eloquent attitude " above of the figure talking earnestly, gesticulating with his left hand, while with his right he presses the hand of the man next to him, that I do not feel convinced that the latter is intended for Christ, and if it is not, the group of five is so self-centred that it is by no means certain that it is a study for the Last Supper. In any case the two sketches for the whole composition, the drawing at Windsor,1 a rough, confused sketch with Christ and S. John repeated with greater distinctness, and the drawing in red chalk at Venice, although presumably of later date than the drawing in the Louvre, are much nearer to the old traditions of representation. In both, as in Andrea del Castagno's fresco, Judas is on the nearer side of the table, and S. John is bent entirely down over the table. The Windsor drawing follows Andrea in that S. John lies across the bosom of Christ. In the Venice study, which is undoubtedly the later of the two, his arms lie on the table, and his head is buried in them. The figure of Christ in the right-hand sketch at Windsor bears a very considerable resemblance to that in Andrea's fresco, and is nearer also to the attitude finally adopted than either the sketch in the Louvre pointing to the dish, or that in the drawing at Venice. The latter is curiously timid and tentative in the delineation of the central figures, in contrast with the firm, bold treatment of the Apostles. The head of Simon might serve as a study for the fresco itself. The rest underwent change, but they are already a company stirred by one impulse, swaying with life.
At the date of the Venice drawing he had not as yet finally decided on the precise moment of the action to be represented. The table is seen more from above, so that the figure of Judas is lower, and no longer, as in Andrea's fresco, awkwardly breaks the line of the Apostles, but the juxtaposition of the figure with that of Christ, whose hand is extended over the dish, while that of Judas is half extended and, as it were, half drawn back, is the moment of the second speech of Christ: "He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me." The moment isolates the two figures. The treachery of Judas is apparent to all.
1 R., Pi. XLV
Plate 35. Virgin And Child With S. Anne (cartoon)
Diploma Gallery, Burlington House, London
Leonardo's final choicewas of the moment immediately after Christ's first speech: " Verily I say unto you that one of you shall betray me;" when its effect is seen in the amazement of the Apostles, asking, asseverating, as yet unconscious who it shall be. The final conception isolates the figure of Christ. The slightness of the central figures of the Venice drawing serves almost to foreshadow the change. By what arrested action he proposed to express the amazement caused by Christ's words is seen in the characterizations of ten of the Apostles in the MS. at South Kensington, which Dr. Richter considers to have been written in 1494-5 :*
"One who was drinking has left the glass in its position, and turned his head towards the speaker. Another, twisting the fingers of his hands together, turns with stern brows to his companion. Another, with hands spread open and showing the palms, shrugs his shoulders up to his ears, and makes a mouth of astonishment. Another speaks into his neighbour's ear, and he who listens to him turns towards him and lends an ear, holding a knife in one hand and in the other the bread half cut through by the knife. Another in turning, holding a knife in his hand, upsets with his hand a glass over the table. Another lays his hand on the table and is looking. Another breathes hard from full mouth. Another leans forward to see the speaker, shading his eyes with his hand. Another draws back behind the one who leans forward, and sees the speaker between the wall and the man who is leaning."
1 R., 665, 666
The Apostle shading his eyes with his hand is only found in the Windsor drawing, but in general the resemblances in these descriptions are rather with the fresco than with the drawings. They are not exactly reproduced. The differences of detail are obvious by a comparison; but in more than half these descriptions the resemblance is such as to admit of instant identification. It would result that at the date of these notes following on the sequence of preparatory drawings the conception was in great measure complete. He needed only the opportunity for its composition. This to some extent explains the rapidity of its execution.
Among the drawings at Windsor are studies in red chalk for the heads of S. Matthew and of Judas, a sketch of the drapery for the arm of S. Peter, and a study for the head of S. Philip in black chalk. The last is of almost incomparable beauty; the whole profile seems quivering with life, so eager is the protestation of the parted lips, so intense the welling passion of the eye.