Art: War Casualty

The world's best-known painting, Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, is ruined, perhaps irreparably. That was the sad news from Italy last week.

Chemically, the Last Slipper had always been a bad risk. The refectory of Milan's convent church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, where Da Vinci painted the jfresco, was damp to start with. To make matters worse, Da Vinci, the eternal experimenter, invented special tempera pigments for the fresco, and they proved to be less durable than those then commonly in use. Even in Da Vinci's own lifetime the Last Supper had begun to fade, and as early as 1556...

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