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Leonardo’s Last Supper

in all its Facets

Giuseppe Bossi’s Monumental Luxury Edition

Leonardo – Bossi, Giuseppe. Del Cenacolo di Leonardo da Vinci. Libri quattro. Milan, Stamperia Reale, 1810. Large fol. (18½ × 12⅝ in [47 × 32 cm]). 263, (1) pp. With

frontispiece & 6  copper  plates ,

3  of  which  printed  in  bistre ,

after drawings of Leonardo’s. Contemporary dark brown h. leather with 5 raised bands with gilt fillets, leather corners with blind fillet and brown marbled covers. Uncut.

Thieme-Becker IV, 406; Brunet I, 1129; Graesse I, 501; Cicognara 3373; Verga 298 (“Un monumento mirabile di erudizione e di critica”). – In Italian. – Printed on strong vélin, now and then watermarked GFA. – Free endpapers and preliminary title slightly creased and a little soiled in the lower right corner (front) and far left edge (back) resp.

First  and  only  edition

Giuseppe Bossi, Del Cenacolo di Leonardo da Vinci

of  the  essential  monumental  monograph

on  Leonardo’s  Last  Supper  fresco

in the refectory of Santa Maria della Grazie in Milan. Created 1495-97 in an oil-tempera mixture onto the dry plaster – and in such a manner not really a fresco strictly speaking – the painting soon showed damages, and no 60 years later Vasari described it as a “jumble of spots”. After first attempts of repairing in the 18th century it was damaged further by French occupation forces of the revolution and Napoleonic period, who used the refectory as armory. In the course of a comprehensive restoration between 1978 and 1999 the painting was restored in accordance with current scientific knowledge and stabilized:

“ Never before Leonardo’s fresco this narration (of the Last Supper) was rendered with such lucidity, with such effort for the unity of time, space and action, and besides with such an attention to the exact representation of just that moment in which the traitor shall be unmasked. Also the individuality of the disciples – at least several among them – was rendered so accurately or their behavior characterized that systematically in conformity with the psychological and the biblical truth … And never before such a rigid and complex geometric order had determined a painting: the comprehensive perspective system, the symmetry, the rigid arrangement of the figures in groups of three, the geometric shapes of all parts and details of the painting … ”

(Jack Wassermann, Leonardo da Vinci, 1990, p. 15).

As  quintessence  of  his  works

for  the  life-size  copy  commissioned  by  Eugène  Beauharnais

documenting  every  known  facet  of  the  monumental  painting ,

Bossi’s  as  splendid  as  scientifically  sound  publication

brought the Last Supper back into the awareness of the educational travelers – not least Goethe, who, as Stendhal, too, owned a copy of present monograph annotated – , for whom from now on a pilgrimage to Milan was requisite:

“ Commissioned by viceroy Eugène Beauharnais with a copy of Leonardo’s Last Supper in S. Marie delle Grazie; 1807 carton, until 1809 color copy (destroyed; formerly Milan, Museo del Castello Sforzesco; carton as model for life-size mosaic, executed 1810-17 by Giacomo Raffaelli, 1818 transferred to the Viennese Minoritenkirche). 1817 Karl August von Weimar acquired the preparatory pauses from B’s estate (Weimar, Art Collections), which Goethe saw in the study of Ferdinand Jagemann ”

(Susanna Zatti and Andreas Stolzenburg in Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon XIII [1996], p. 218).

Leonardo da Vinci, Head to the rightLeonardo da Vinci, Head to the left
Leonardo da Vinci, Head of an elderly man to the right and left (in brown) resp.

Introduction and short biography of Leonardo followed by 60 pages chronological presentation of references to the Last Supper in literature from Luca Paciolo (1498) to Luigi Lanzi (1809). In the second book (part) description of the fresco in general as well as in detail of Christ and the twelve disciples, the place and the damages (51 pp.). The third book presenting the numerous copies up to printed renderings and imitations (42 pp.), followed by extensive treatment of the copy made for Beauharnais (21 pp.). Rounded off in the fourth book finally by a study of Leonardo’s manner of working and preparations of both technical and historical kind (53 pp.) and annotations & contents (22 pp.).

The plates worked in copper by Giuseppe Benaglia (Monza about 1766 or 1796 – Milan about 1830/35), Giuseppe Longhi (Monza 1766 – Milan 1831) and Francesco Rosaspina (Monte Scùdolo, Rimini, 1762 – Bologna 1841) rendering

the  rather  portrait-like  highly  interesting  head  of  Christ

Leonardo da Vinci, Cristo

with  suggested  crown  of  thorns  and  another  hand  in  the  back  hair

after a drawing of Leonardo’s — head of a young man with rich hair, in roulette technique printed in bistre after a red chalk drawing attributed to Cesare da Sesto (Sesto Calende? 1477 – Milan 1523) — head of an elderly man to the right and left (in brown) resp. after drawings of Leonardo’s now preserved in Venice (a further sheet of the same head, again to the left, on blue paper within the Anatomical Studies at Windsor) — Homo Vitruvianus, now likewise Venice — a charming group with St. Anna, the virgin with child & lamb.

As frontispiece finally – roulette engraving printed in reddish brown – full-page (15⅞ × 10⅞ in [40.3 × 27.5 cm])

Leonardo’s  magnificent  old  age  portrait

Leonardo da Vinci

as  the  only  known  self-portrait :

“ And a precious document of his features is preserved in the famous red chalk Self-portrait in Turin: Aristotelian in his dignity and his intense intellectuality ”

(Jack Wassermann, op. cit., p. 28).

Recently doubted by some and even decried as fake of Bossi’s, the critics at least miss that with regard to the features criticized as being to old for Leonardo deceased at the age of 67 the drawing corresponds with Plato personified indeed by Leonardo in Raphael’s fresco The School of Athens created about 1810 – thus still very much in Leonardo’s lifetime (1452-1519). Present engraving worked by Benaglio not immediately from the original drawing, but a copy by Raffaele Albertolli (Bedano 1770 – Milan 1812), considered an “excellent draughtsman” (Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon II [1992], p. 111).

Leonardo da Vinci, St. Anna, virgin with child & lamb
Leonardo da Vinci, St. Anna, the virgin with child & lamb

BOSSI (1777-1815), pupil of i. a. Martin Knoller and Andrea Apiani at the Milan Academy, received an Academy prize in 1801 after returning from further studies in Rome.

“ As a versatile man of letters he was appointed successor to abbot C. Bianconi in the secretariat of the Brera Academy. By the foundation of the Brera gallery he won his prime merit, the first four halls of which were opened 1806, and of the Museo Archeologico in Milan. In his own house B. opened, after having brought together there a precious collection of old master drawings and also a rich library, a private school for painting. B. was furnished with an unusual knowledge of the drawings of the old masters and is unforgotten still today as the discoverer of the ‘Venetian Sketchbook’. As literary fruit of his special studies for the making of a copy of Leonardo’s Last Supper fresco commissioned in 1807 by Eugène Beauharnais his work ‘Del Cenacolo di Leonardo da Vinci’ printed in Milan 1810 came into existence ”

(E. Verga in Thieme-Becker IV [1910], p. 406).

Praised by current literature still two centuries after its publication:

“ Bossi’s monumental Del Cenacolo di Leonardo Da Vinci libri quattro, printed in 1810,

contains  precious  observations  on  Leonardo

and  on  the  copies  that  Bossi  examined ”

(Pietro C. Marani, Leonardo: The Last Supper [2001], p. 27).

Here  then  present  in  wonderfully  wide-margined ,

practically  snow-white  copy  uncut  on  three  sides

in  contemporary  dark  brown  half  leather :

Giuseppe Bossi, Del Cenacolo di Leonardo da Vinci

Giuseppe  Bossi’s  Monumental  Last  Supper  Monograph

on  Leonardo’s  Monumental  Last  Supper  Fresco .

Offer no. 29,001 / EUR  2300. / export price EUR  2185. (c. US$ 2381.) + shipping