Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
In 1494 the fear of the coming of the Antichrist prophesied in the New Testament begins to make itself felt in Italy. Greek and Roman statues, which were recently excavated and accepted as supreme works of art by such men as Leonardo da Vinci, are considered by the common people to be pagan deities returning to prepare the world for the reign of the Antichrist.
Leonardo is a member of the court of Duke Moro in Milan. Besides acting as chief architect for the duke, he interests himself in teaching his pupils, Giovanni Beltraffio and Andrea Salaino, and in working on whatever catches his fancy. Most of the money he receives from the duke’s treasury goes to buy pieces of amber with insects embedded in them, old shells, live birds that he studies and then frees, and other curious objects that distract his attention and keep him from completing his painting, The Last Supper.
The student Giovanni is attracted to Monna Cassandra, a beautiful girl who lives in the neighborhood. Unknown to him, she practices the black arts and is a favorite of suspected witches. The duke of Milan calls upon the king of France to help protect and support his dukedom. Louis XII of France, however, soon proves false to his friendship with the duke and overruns the duchy. The French forces use a clay statue of a mounted warrior, which Leonardo did not yet cast in bronze, as a target for a shooting contest, and a flood causes the walls on which The Last...
(The entire section is 1180 words.)
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