Top positive review
A pleasure to read
Reviewed in the United States on February 3, 2017
Docu-books, be it about events that happened 2 billion years, or just two-weeks ago; be it about religions, politics, wars, arts, or sciences-should be (in my opinion) reviewed on three levels. Is the subject interesting? Does the book bring new interesting insights to this already interesting subject? From the literary point of view, is the book well written? The "Last Supper" deserves high marks on all of the above. The subject is not merely interesting, but is hypnotically fascinating. The reader immerses herself/himself in the truly Byzantine world of Italian and European politics at the explosive times of the mid-Renaissance, where lay and Catholic rulers constantly plot against each other, making and breaking pacts daily. Where the SON OF THE POPE (!!) leads the Pope's army against Catholic rulers and their Catholic subjects, where a crazed Dominican monk institutes the Kingdom of God in jaded Florence and his Army of God child soldiers denounce pleasure seeking heretics….I could go on and on and on. The ruler intimately associated with Leonardo and the Last Supper, Lodovico Moro, the Duke of Milan, is the epitome of all that is crooked, depraved, power-hungry in that cauldron. Overlay this with the seething and boiling world of Renaissance Art, and overlay even that with one of the most enigmatic, tragic, and brilliant figures in the history of art and science-and you get a whopper of a topic. As to the insights, Mr. Ross King deserves a lot of credit. I am not an expert on the Italian Renaissance, neither on Leonardo, but I have been fascinated enough by him and his times to have read at least four or five books that recount his life and art (out of the tens, or more, starting with Giorgio Vasari's 1568 chapter on Leonardo). Mr. King is a compleat erudite, citing his sources and relating facts that I either did not know, or had a different interpretation of. For example, the lost Battle of Anghiari was attributed to Leonardo's invention of new wall painting techniques, which failed to dry and when heated, simply ran off the walls. However, Mr. King adds Leonardo's well-known tardiness as a weighty factor of the painting disappearance. Many facts related to his personal relations with his contemporaries also appear here, but not in many other biographies. But the main point, as the book's title indicates, is the artistic, technical, religious, and personal aspects of Leonardo's creating the Last Supper, correctly defined as the world's most famous painting. And here I am glad to grant Mr. King his third first prize, for his writing skills. The book is very well written, detailed but readable, gossipy yet expert, all you might want from a really fascinating historical tale. Mr. King falls into the inevitable trap of digressing from Leonardo and the Last Supper, to Leonardo and his art and science, and to Leonardo and the fifteenth century Italian renaissance. These digressions are unavoidable and, frankly they add rather than detract from the book. A pleasure to read.