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At Supper with Leonardo
Vol. 8, No. 1 (Winter 2008), pp. 75-79
Published by: University of California Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2008.8.1.75
Page Count: 5
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Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper may be the most famous dinner party of all time, yet for all its fame and familiarity, scant notice has ever been taken of the food that is set before Christ and his disciples. Only after the fresco was cleaned in 1997 has it been possible to see what for centuries had been obscured beneath the accretions of overpaint, varnish, and grime. The meal being consumed turns out to be not bread or pascal lamb as once thought, but grilled eel garnished with orange slices. Among the thousands of pages of notes that Leonardo made over the course of his lifetime are a dozen grocery receipts that call for "peppered bread, eels, and apricots" among other things. This article attempts to relate the meal depicted in the Last Supper to Leonardo's own dining habits as well to a recipe given in the most influential cookbook of the period, Platina's On Right Pleasure and Good Health (1470). That Leonardo owned a copy of this book and even expressed admiration for its author is cited as evidence that the Last Supper foreswore conventional iconography in order to depict the nouvelle cuisine of his day.