Last Supper Restoration

Last Supper - As it had degenerated
or those unaware, the famous painting by Leonardo DaVinci "The Last Supper", is being "restored" by Dr.Pinin Brambilia Barcilon. She has been busy about it for 16 years (as of 1998).

Her restoration is a failure ... though a well meaning one. The cause of the failure is the lack of artistic ability in Dr.Barcilon, i.e. she's no Leonardo - not even close.

I could have done a better job myself ... with my eyes closed ... I would have left the damned thing alone to age, decay and die with some measure of dignity. (Actually, I thought of redoing the "Last Supper" myself 20 years ago but decided against it even then.)

But some people just can't accept the eternal loss of something loved. You see from the above picture that the work was decaying as an "integrated entity" ... the work of one man. Now it will continue to decay as a hybrid ... a cross between a Renaissance genius and a fairly good restorer (but not another artist).

Last Supper - As restored by Dr.Pinin Brambilia Barcilon - 1998 At left is the partially "restored" work in detail of Christ's face.

Let us dissect

Firstly, the jpg here shown does not do credit to the restoration capabilities of Dr. Barcilon. However, it is good enough to show the ... STANDARD HAIR ERROR ... on the left side of the head.

For those unfamiliar ... there are standard errors that artists make when starting out. There are standard foot errors ... standard hand errors, blah, blah, blah ... known since perhaps the Lasceaux era.
The standard hair error is:

Improper molding of the hair so as to make it appear as a flat extension sticking out of the side of the figure's head.

Leonardo was incapable of this error even at age 15. So to see it in a master work, attributed to him, is unacceptable. In a better picture of the finished restoration, this is painfully obvious.

There is an awful shading error in the lips making them seem horrifically feminine. (Deep, pouting lips ... awaiting a kiss?)

The chiaroscuro is, in general, truly awful.

This is a face painted by an amateur. Perhaps one would appreciate it in the context of a local art show. Dr. Barcilon has wasted 16 years of her life and has accomplished only a defacement of what's left of a great work. She should stick to real restoration (small areas which have the rest of the painting to use as a general guide) rather than such extensive repaintings which require great artistic experience acting as the guide.

The part of artistic experience sorely needed here is the philosophical one ... this takes even longer than the technical part.
Really, you can't get such a work restored to anything acceptable because the only person capable of doing the work (acapella) would be an artist of equal ability, experience and temperment (someone close to another Leonardo) ... and such a person would not take the job because he would be doing his own works ... not spending 16 years on another guy's stuff.

A great work of art can't be pieced together scientifically. It is not the "sum of its parts" in the way of a puzzle. There are too many for anyone or thing (computer) to put together from the bottom up. A work of art is made from an "imagined template" to which the artist fits the pieces.

An example is the laughable attempts to recreate a Stradavarius violin.

Numerous idiots have commented about the wood, the glue, any physical part. The fact is that a "Strad" is an extension of the intellect of the man himself. The parts are fitted to a "sound template" (the experienced judgement of Stradivarius). The parts have essentially nothing to do with it. He would have made the same sound with plastic or any material with reasonable properties. So, the reason there are no more Stradavarius violins is that there is no more Stradivarius.

Puts me in mind of "crystal". Somebody told me you know it's crystal if you can run your wet finger around the edge and make it sound a note. You can do that with any glass ... provided it's clean ... and provided you have the minimal skill to do it. It's the person ... not the material.

Ooooooooooooh !

By her own statements, Dr. Barcilon apparently "communes" daily with the "ghost" of Leonardo (and has come to know him well). But the erstwhile avatarian is, I fear, more closely related to a narcissistic doppelganger.

DaVinci is dead ... He doesn't care about anything anymore ... He doesn't feel a thing. And, if my own experience is a guide, he didn't "suffer" for his art ... he was happier than a pig in a mud wallow while painting "The Last Supper".

Next time someone wants to redo an old master
better to get some "graffiti artists" to do it.
They'll screw it up in 16 seconds for free.


A related disaster is the "cleaning" of the Sistine ceiling.

Do-gooders everywhere

They cleaned the piss out of it and now I can describe the results in one word ... garish. What a pallette! Picked out by my grandson in pre-K.

I guess Michelangelo was an idiot with no experience. He probably never saw a wall painted "al-fresco"... he never thought about his work ... he just "felt" what needed to be done ... Not.

The truth in this matter ...

Pope Julius II : Why is the ceiling so garish in it's coloration Mick?
Michelangelo : Your eminence, having seen the frescos of other cathedrals and the effects of age upon them, I have decided to paint with a much brighter pallette so that decades from now the work will acquire the desired appearance when the lampblack (from oil lamps) has been applied.

Pope Julius II : Ahh! I understand. Then I shall have to wait quite awhile to see the ceiling as you intended it to look. Very well, I too have seen these age effects and see the wisdom of your choices.
Michelangelo : Indeed, every artist knows that the application of a uniform glaze to any painting serves to unify the color scheme. When that day comes the work will be complete as I now envision it.

Pope Julius II : Let us hope that restorers centuries hence will understand this as well lest they remove continually the uniform coating of lampblack.
Michelangelo : Fear not, O Pontiff, no one who enters this hallowed place could possibly be that stupid ! Ha, ha, ha!
Pope Julius II : True, true my friend. No one could be that stupid. Ha, ha, ha!

Lest Dr. Barcilon commmit hara-kiri

I do not blame her for the destruction (which doesn't matter anyway as long as digital images are permanently available). I place the blame on the yahoos who commisioned the mess.

Some people think they know more than Leonardo and Michelangelo about the Last Supper and the Sistine ceiling ... they stand above lil' Leo & Mick and understand.

To these people I say:

Leonardo and Michelangelo took out earwax
that had more brainpower than you.

An email complaint 04/15/01 ...

Obviously, you have not the experience in art that you claim to have. You don't have any appreciation for it, either. Any artist would know that paintings accumulate a coat of dirt, especially in an environment like the dining hall. The restoration removed this.

As well as the paintings "soul" ... Ebtx

And what you claim to be the work of an artist is actually the disaster of earlier renovations. To address what you call a hair depiction problem: any artist would sacrifice a bit of realism to achieve the beauty that da Vinci's Christ is.

No, they sacrificed the philosophical intent of DaVinci in favor of brighter colors, i.e. their own view and definition of beauty.

Also, I detect much jealousy in your ranting. You think you could have restored the Last Supper? From all indications, you would have coated it with plastic,

Yes, indeed ... I would have

to let it die in dignity, but somewhat protected. That would truly be a well meaning but FAILURE as a restoration.

Better to save for as long as possible than to   alter   disfigure

Incidentally, though I admire this work of art, I am not a Christian. In fact, I flatly do not believe that Jesus is anything more than a "made-up" story figure designed to fill a religious need. Hence, such bones as I pick are entirely secular and I hope ... since I am not at all emotionally envolved in the incident ... cold and objective (though rendered with some sarcasm for purpose of irritating puffery).

The reply that I actually sent ...

No, I wouldn't have the time or expertise to restore such a work. I know this much though, you can totally alter the meaning of a work of art with less titanium white than would fit on 1/10 the head of a pin.

To restore such a work requires an understanding of the artist's philosophical outlook even more than artistic experience. I have plenty enough experience in this venue. I would "know" with certainty that I had failed to do the artist justice.

The restorers here have failed miserably at the assigned task but apparently haven't the insight to sense their own deficiencies (the expected trait of such well intentioned meddlers). The restorations done by the "other" real artists were far better indeed.

My judgement stands. The end result is a "fantastic childish embarrassment" ... nothing more and I am ashamed for what was done. But it doesn't matter ... we have pictures of it as it was and sooner or later all original works of art must bite dust.

EBTX 4-15-33


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