When my parents and I arrived at Abbey Tongerlo in Belgium we were asked to join a group to a museum in the abbey. We had no clue what to expect but when we entered the small museum I could hardly believe what I saw: the one and only replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper!
The Last Supper was painted in the late 15th century on a wall in a convent in Milan. The mural painting represents Jesus and his disciples having supper. The specific moment Da Vinci chose to paint is when Jesus tells his disciples that one of them will betray him.
Father Ivo told us about the characters on the painting and how we should interpret it. It shows Jesus who tells the disciples on his left side about the betrayal. They are all in shock and wondering who could do something like that. On his right side the disciples are not sure what they’d heard.
You can’t really see Judas’ face, it’s the person wearing green and blue. Jesus said that he would give a piece of bread to the person who was going to betray him. In the painting Jesus is reaching for the same piece of bread as Judas.
I always thought the woman in the painting was Mary Magdalene. According to Father Ivo this isn’t true: Da Vinci’s muse was a woman who he often used as a basis in other paintings. It is not clear why he never tried to change the female face.
The students of Da Vinci probably made this replica because the artist himself didn’t feel like painting it all over again. Studies have shown that Jesus and Judas are painted more beautiful, thus it is believed Da Vinci only painted these two characters.
The replica may be seen as the only official replica in the world, because Leonardo da Vinci painted it in his atelier (even though he probably didn’t paint it all by himself).
It was really cool seeing the painting in real life at such an unexpected location. It’s so big (it used to be larger but they had to cut it off the wall when the abbey once was on fire) and impressive. A good reason to visit the Abbey of Tongerlo!