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Q: Leonardo Da Vinci ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Leonardo Da Vinci
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: jimen-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 25 Oct 2004 17:37 PDT
Expires: 24 Nov 2004 16:37 PST
Question ID: 420053
Did Leonardo da Vinci use a chorister called Pietro Bandinelli as a
model for "The Last Supper"?
Subject: Re: Leonardo Da Vinci
Answered By: juggler-ga on 25 Oct 2004 19:15 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

No.  The supposed involvement of "Pietro Bandinelli" in The Last
Supper is what is called an "urban legend."  The story has no
historical basis.

As you many know, dozens of web sites and sermons have recounted the
supposed story of Milanese chorister Pietro (or Pietri) Bandinelli
being the model for Jesus in the Last Supper and then being discovered
by Leonardo years later when the artist was seeking a model for Judas.

Here is a typical example of this tale appearing in a UK church sermon: 

"Many years ago, when Leonardo da Vinci was painting The Last Supper,
he looked for someone to be a model for Jesus. Eventually he found a
local choirboy in a church in Rome named Pietro Bandinelli, who not
only had lovely features, but also lived a good life. Years passed,
but the painting was still not finished because he needed someone to
use as a model for Judas Iscariot and he wanted someone whose face was
hard and sinful. At last he saw a beggar on the streets of Rome with a
such an evil face he thought twice about asking him; but he did so,
and painted his face on his canvas. As he finished, he asked the man
his name and he replied, 'I am Pietro Bandinelli, I also sat for you
as your model for Christ.? The sinful life he had lived had so
disfigured the face that had first attracted da Vinci, he now thought
it to be the most villainous in the whole of Rome!"

 The details of this story have been debunked on several web sites:


"Origins:   We know so little about the circumstances surrounding da
Vinci's creation of "The Last Supper" that an account offering this
much detail is immediately suspect. Certainly da Vinci didn't take
twenty-five years, or even ten years, to complete his work, as claimed
in these accounts. Documentary evidence indicates he began "The Last
Supper" in 1495 and was finished with it by 1498. (At the outside, Da
Vinci would had to have completed his work by the end of 1499; that
year he fled Milan ahead of the invading French and didn't return to
the city until 1506.) Other details presented here are woefully wrong
as well: We have no records of whom Leonardo used as models for the
figures in "The Last Supper," but he was painting on a wall,
undoubtedly from sketches, so in no case would he have had models
sitting in a "studio" for "days" while he "painted on canvas."

Also see

"The Truth: 
There is no record of Leonardo using the same model for both Christ
and Judas.  According to author Robert Wallace who wrote "The World Of
Leonardo 1452-1519," Leonardo did use live models and did look among
local prisoners for someone to portray Judas, but did not choose the
same person as used for Christ.  The painting took only two to three
years, not seven and there are no accounts of a prisoner being brought
from Rome for the sittings."

"Another famous story about Da Vinci's Last Supper is the story about
the model that sat for both Jesus and Judas. The last face to paint
was Judas. Da Vinci unwittingly used the same man for Judas that he
used for Jesus between 10 and 20 years earlier (although most scholars
believe the painting was completed in three years). The intervening
years had been rough for that man and the one whose sweet face had one
been used to represent the Savior was now hardened and twisted enough
to represent Judas. Unfortunately there is no historical evidence
behind the story. We know nothing about of any of Da Vinci's models.
It is apparently just an urban legend..."

It's hard to pinpoint exactly how an urban legend like this started,
but it was apparently featured in a 1960s record by country
singer/comedian Buddy Starcher.

"Abstract: Last supper. History Repeats Itself, Decca DL 74796, late
1960s. The telling of an old tale about Leonardo da Vinci in which the
same man modeled for both Jesus and Judas, on the album History
Repeats Itself."
source: Michigan State University:

search strategy:
bandinelli "last supper"
leonardo "last supper" "same model"
leonardo "last supper" "same man"

I hope this helps.
jimen-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Great answer, pity "Pietro" never existed, but there it is.

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