N78PionaFacciata.jpg (13754 byte)

Leonardo’s Last Supper is a striking work for its complex composition. Since its first appearance it has been object of attention of engravers and copists; monasteries and religious orders have competed to commission copies of it, often altering the original structure, the groupings, or introducing meaningful variations: Giovan Pietro da Cemmo, Antonio da Gessate, Tommaso Aleni, Andrea Solario, Marco d’Oggiono have been among the early promotees of the big format model, both in frescos and “teleri” (great painted canvas).
The admirable restorations made by Doctor Pinin Brambilla has reproposed this work in its original richness of colours and details, which risked to be lost forever; amidst many “re-discoveries” it has permitted to cast new light on the bell tower of an unidentified church, apparently lying within a pre-Alpine lake landscape, which can be seen from the central opening behind the Christ. In his Atlantic Code, Leonardo talks about the Lake Como territory and he describes it with an abundance of details which witnesses both his love for the natural beauties that characterise its landscape and a the Maestro’s frequent visits to the area. He writes about his trip from the mountains around Lecco (from Resegone to Grigne) towards Mandello to reach Gravedona and later Chiavenna. Before reaching Gravedona, Piona is an obliged stop. Some of his drawings of mountains typical of the Lecco area, now parts of the Windsor collection, show even more the artist’s interest for these places. It has long been pointed out that Leonardo found the inspiration and important references for many of his works in this territory. More specifically the views of the Virgin and Saint Ann of the Louvre and of some Madonnas, like the Madonna Litta, appear very close to the natural features in these areas, especially of the oriental part of the Lecco area and that North of Valtellina. The investigation of the landscape in the Last Supper has led to a nearly complete identification with that visible from the promontory of Piona-Olgiasca, which is also confirmed by the comparison with the most important ancient copies of the painting. The ‘landscape element’ does not constitute the only proof of the link between Leonardo and this land. Many have sought to retrace the histories of the families who administered these territories, and of the people in the Sforza’s court affiliated to them and close to Leonardo. Amongst them there is for instance Paolo Giovio, an historian from Como and first biographer of Leonardo da Vinci. There are also Benedectine clergymen who have lived in the Priorate of Piona and shared its mystic rules, witnessed its successive commandatory management, enriched its decoration. Special attention has been dedicated to the reading of the symbols that chraacterise such decorations, especially that of the Abbey and its cloister. They single out remarkable references to Leonardo’s thought and works, well visible in the Last Supper and in the Church that hosts it: Santa Maria delle Grazie. Moreover, the investigation shows that Leonardo’s interest in Piona could also be linked to the similarities between his own thought and that of the Cluniac-Benedectine Order, which had founded that Abbey; and to the presence in the church’s apse of artistic elements such as the fresco of the twelve apostles in a similar space to that of the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
The research underlines the possible relationships between the Maestro and the Milanese family Birago, who had amongst his members few Prior Commendator at Piona between 1450 and 1511. First of them was Pietro Birago, friend of Ludovico il Moro and related to Giovan pietro Birago who produced the first print of the Last Supper half century later with the ideal imprimatur of Leonardo. This is another ‘coincidence’ that makes the links between the Maestro and the Abbey even stronger.

                                                                                                                                                                     Prof. Ernesto Solari


In the papers 573 b, front and upfront of the Atlantic Code, Leonardo examines multiple aspects related to the Lake Como territory, the mountains and the lakes. These are real witnesses of his frequent presence here and of his love for this area and its several natural beauties.


Leonardo compiles this Code between 1506 and 1508. In the same period he visits the valleys of Lombardy. Leonardo talks about those territories and describes them with a richness of details that points out his great love for the natural features of these places and the Maestro’s frequent presence in the areas. 


Walking the Via Ducale and its ramifications, Leonardo admires the Grigne which he sketches and fixes in his imagination to use them later in masterpieces as the Virgin and Saint Ann of the Louvre.

The study on the presence of these landscapes in various works and drawings of Leonardo represents the leitmotiv of an exhibition to be produced next year.

Other aspects will not be overlooked: the links with the resources of our territory and bordering areas such as the Canton Ticino (Novazzano, Ponte Capriasca, Lugano), Saronno (Va), Milan, the area of the Adda Park, from Paderno to Vaprio d’Adda, where Leonardo was often guest of his best pupil: Francesco Melzi. However the most interesting aspects of the route are surely connected to the mountains present in the Virgin of the Rocks, which could be compared to the central massif of Northern Grigna, composed by Sasso Cavallo and Sasso dei Carbonari. The typical reddish colour given by Leonardo and the definition of “pelada” would confirm such hypothesis. Another, though less plausible hypothesis is that related to the landscape of the Annunciation of the Uffizi, which, according to some scholars could represent the “pizzini” of Saint Martin and Mount S. Primo in the background. It seems more likely to us to draw the rocky mountain chain of the Saint Ann nearer to the rocks located on the lake at Lecco-Caviate, which make up the Horn of Medale.


Amongst all the questions related to the theme of water, there is one that Leonardo would deal with during his second stay in Milan and that excited him above all: the urgent problem of creating a way of communication between Lake Como and Milan in order to favour the transportation of manufactured and agricultural products towards the urban markets, departure points for Europe. Two were the proposals put forward by Leonardo: overcoming the Adda waterfalls by uplifting the river’s water through a dam and especially made up basins; and linking Lecco with the Lambro through sailable canals connecting the basins of the Brianza region.


the finding of the bell tower of the ancient Abbey of Piona and of the surrounding landscape in the Last Supper.


On the basis of historical hints, the painting arrived in Lipomo immediately after the first half of the 1800s, coming from the Bonanomi Chapel in the suppressed Church of Saint Antonio in Como., where it had been put  around 1578 by Paolo Giovio jr as new piece on the altar following the injunction of a visiting bishop; as shown by the fact that it was dedicated to the Holy Family instead of the Church’s Saint. The painting arrived in Lipomo without frame since in S. Antonio it was located inside an altarpiece of stucco.

It is possible that Paolo Giovio jr had taken it from the family’s picture gallery, where the works of historian Paolo Giovio were kept.


It is coherent with the poetics of Leonardo on the theme of Passion.

“Leonardo has invented a completely new mode of painting the fundamental event of the Christian dogma, the inevitable Passion and Death of Christ. We know that this had been subject of a work examined by Father Pietro da Novellare in 1501, right at the time when the artist was planning the Madonna of the fuses. In his letter of April 3rd addressed to Isabella d’Este the father describes the postures of Christ (a child of about one year of age), embracing a lamb, His Mother and Saint Ann….

Drawing towards the end of his life, Leonardo will give his last interpretation of this theme with the Saint Ann, the Madonna and the Child with the little lamb of the Louvre (Carlo Pedretti).      


N1-FinestraNuova3.JPG (13413 byte)


CampanileCenaN.JPG (62940 byte)


N89PionaChiostro.jpg (34068 byte)

N99PionaCapit2Partic.jpg (8057 byte)

N15-41CenaGiampPart2.JPG (24474 byte)

miopaesPiona.JPG (9325 byte)