“The restoration of Leonardo’s Last Supper, carried out between 1977 and 1999, surely represents a turning point in the methodology of mural painting restoration, and perhaps in the history of art restoration as well.
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It went steadily ahead despite difficulties and problems of every conceivable kind, from the fear of even approaching such a famous artwork, to the paradox of trying to conserve and ‘restore’ a painting that history had already bequeathed to us in an altered and tampered state, to the point that only the ‘shadow’ of Leonardo’s lost masterpiece remains today; finally, but hardly less significant, there was the matter of the relationship between the restoration effort and the iconic image that had taken root in the viewers’ consciousness and visual imagination for at least a century. Today, exactly ten years after its completion, the complex process of saving the painting is ready, in 2009, for a verification of its results and their durability over time. The approval of critics in Italy and the world over, and the unending stream of visitors from the four corners of the globe to Milan to see what is still, perhaps, universally the most famous mural painting in art history, would certainly seem to buttress the conviction that back in 1977 the right decisions were made, in terms of aesthetic and conservation concerns, by the Superintendent for Artistic and Historical Heritage in Milan, along with the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro and the many international scientific institutions that provided their support and collaboration for the duration of the project…” (from Pietro C. Marani’s Preface).