Artists of the Italian Renaissance

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San Salvi Refectory (Firenze)

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The most dramatic Florence last supper (though still very tame by Venice standards!) is to be found in the Refectory of the ex-convent of San Salvi.   The convent dates from the mid 1000s, when it was full of Benedictine monks.  As the Spanish forces of Charles V consolidated their control of Florence in 1530 and looted their way around the suburbs, the remaining monks did not wait to hang around and make friends, and took off.  It is said that after the foreign troops had destroyed the church they turned their attention to the monastery, but their commander was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the last supper fresco that he ordered that the refectory and surrounding buildings should be spared (and, of course, you can't loot a fresco!). 

 

The monks' place was taken by Vallombrosan nuns from Faenza, who pursued a policy of strict seclusion for three hundred years, so no one knew much about what was (going on) inside until it was prised open in the mid 1800s.

In 1511 Andrea del Sarto (Florentine painter, 1486 - 1530) started to paint a last supper in the monastery's refectory, but only finished this in 1530 as the Spanish forces advanced and just before his death.   

 

Note the unusual position of Judas on the same side of the table as the others - he's the one sitting next to Jesus doing the "who me?" act. 

 

The convent museum is located just further than a comfortable walk to the east of Florence.  Just ring the bell on the gate in via San Salvi between 8.15 and 13.50 any morning except Monday.  It's well worth going just to see the last supper, but you will also get the bonus of several other interesting paintings, and some attractive rooms from the old convent.  Probably you'll be the only visitor.

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