How Da Vinci's The Last Supper Survived a Bomb During WWII

Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper has been one of the most revered and well-known works of art in the world for more than five centuries. But during World War II, it almost became “history” in more than one sense of the word.

In August 1943, Allied leaders bombed a number of Italian cities, including Milan. Many historic churches and buildings containing pieces by master artists were either destroyed or severely damaged, including the Duomo, the Castello Sforzesco, the Teatro alla Scala, and Santa Maria delle Grazie.

The latter was the church where Leonardo had painted The Last Supper mural directly on one of the walls in 1495. On August 15, a high-explosive bomb landed a mere 80 feet away from the mural. The building was virtually demolished: The roof caved in, the cloister collapsed, and entire walls were blown out. You can see from the picture how much of the church was destroyed.

Miraculously, the wall the mural was on was still standing when the dust cleared. Hoping to protect Leonardo's work against just such an attack, officials had guarded it with sandbags and scaffolding years before. The precaution was one many museums and churches across Italy had taken when war broke out—even sculptures such as Michelangelo's David were encased in brick towers to protect them from bombs and shrapnel.

Because they didn’t want to expose the piece to the elements, Monuments Men and other officials were unable to assess the damage right away. "Leonardo's Last Supper may be in ruins," Monuments Man Deane Keller wrote in 1944. Amazingly, when the scaffolding was removed, da Vinci's masterpiece was in relatively good condition.

It’s actually not the first time The Last Supper has come close to destruction. During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon’s soldiers bunked in Santa Maria della Grazie. When they got bored, they used The Last Supper for target practice, with Jesus's face as the bullseye. They hit the mark at least a couple of times, but the mural has since been restored.

Meet the Artist Who Has Been Sketching New York City Subway Stations for 40 Years

art2002/iStock via Getty Images
art2002/iStock via Getty Images

The aesthetic appeal of New York City's subway system is often hidden behind a layer of grime or simply ignored by commuters. Philip Ashforth Coppola has been admiring those finer points of public transit for more than 40 years.

The New Jersey-based artist began sketching and researching the subway’s interior in 1978, Atlas Obscura reports. His pen drawings are in black and white, but Coppola notes the exact colors and the historic significance behind each. The beaver plaques at the Astor Place station, for example, represents real estate mogul John Jacob Astor, who first made his fortune in the fur trade.

“I’ve spent a lot of years on it,” he says in the 2005 documentary One Track Mind (also the title of his 2018 book). “But I haven’t accomplished that much.” The former art student is selling himself short: Coppola has drawn at least 110 of the city’s 472 stations, resulting in 2000 sketches spanning 41 notebooks.

In an interview with WNYC, Coppola admitted that he wasn’t a train enthusiast as a child. “When I was a kid, I liked to draw pictures and tell stories or write them down,” he says. “That sort of ... filed into this new adventure.”

Coppola sees the drawings as a way to preserve the subway system's overlooked details. “The idea is to make a record of what we’ve got, before more of it is lost," he says.

Even irritable commuters realized the significance of his endeavors. “People were just thunderstruck when they saw [Coppola’s] artwork,” says Jeremy Workman, the documentary's director. “It reminded them of art they had seen themselves and maybe didn’t notice. We thought that was a powerful message: Reminding people of the beauty that’s right in front of their eyes.”

You Can Rent a ‘Lisa Frank Flat’ in Los Angeles on Hotels.com

Hotels.com
Hotels.com

If you went to elementary school in the 1980s or 1990s, chances are there was at least one piece of Lisa Frank gear in your classroom. The artist's aesthetic helped define the decades, and wide-eyed, technicolor animals still hold a special place in the hearts of millennials. Now, you can live out your childhood dream of having a room that looks like the inside of your 3rd grade backpack: a penthouse suite inspired by Lisa Frank is now available to book in Los Angeles.

The Lisa Frank Flat, a collaboration between Lisa Frank and Hotels.com, screams nostalgia. Each room pays homage to the settings and characters in the artist's vast catalog. The bathroom is painted to look like an underwater paradise, with shimmering dolphins swimming in a pink and blue sea. The kitchen is stocked with snacks from your childhood—like Gushers, Pop-Tarts, Pixy Stix, and Planters Cheez Balls—and painted in bright, rainbow animal patterns that will reflect how you feel when your sugar rush peaks.

Lisa Frank bathroom.
Hotels.com

Lisa Frank kitchen.
Hotels.com

In the bedroom, the colors are toned down only slightly. A light-up cloud canopy and a rainbow sky mural create a soothing environment for falling asleep. And if seeing Lisa Frank around every corner makes you feel inspired, there's a place for you to get in touch with your inner pop artist. The desk comes supplied with pencils, folders, and a notebook—all branded with Lisa Frank artwork, naturally.

Lisa Frank bedroom.
Hotels.com

Lisa Frank desk.
Hotels.com

Interested in basking in the glow of your childhood hero for a night? Online reservations for the Lisa Frank Flat at Barsala in downtown Los Angeles will be available through Hotels.com starting October 11 and lasting through October 27. You can book your stay for $199 a night—just don't forget to pack your Trapper Keeper.

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