Year 3 Visual Arts

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Lines and Symmetry - Last Supper

last supper leonardo da vinci

In What Your Year 2 Child Needs to Know, we looked at the portrait Mona Lisa. Do you think the form of the Mona Lisa is similar to those that you can see in the painting of the Last Supper (click here to see a larger version of the painting)? Both were made by the Italian artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci [leo-NAR-do da-VIN-chi].

Leonardo shows us yet another way that line can create powerful works of art. In his Last Supper, which was painted on the wall of the refectory, or dining room, for the holy men at Santa Maria della Grazie in Milan, Leonardo has used a combination of vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines to arrange the scene. Jesus and his disciples, designed with mostly rounded lines, are seated at the table in a room with windows, all composed from straight and diagonal lines.

One of the things Leonardo uses his lines here to do, particularly the diagonal ones, is direct where we look. The lines all point to the centre of the picture where the oval face of Jesus is framed by a window.

The lines work to make sure we know who is the most important character in this story. Leonardo's lines also balance the painting, so that the setting on the right-hand side of Jesus is echoed on the left, even though the figures and faces are different. The painting, we say, is symmetrical, and the boundaries you can see or imagine that equally divide balanced or reflecting forms are known as lines of symmetry.

Now try creating your own symmetrical work of art using lines, like Leonardo. Fold a piece of paper exactly in half, press the crease to mark it, then open the page out again and flatten it. Taking a soft pencil, a piece of charcoal or chalk, draw a scene made up of lines on one side of the fold line only. It must only be half a drawing, and it must touch the folded line. You could draw half a house or, inspired by Leonardo's Last Supper, compose half a room with windows, a table and a floor or walls made from lines. Fold the paper in half again and rub over the outside so that your drawn lines transfer on to the plain half of the page. Open up once more and admire your linear, symmetrical drawing.

This activity is adapted from pages 185 - 186 of What Your Year 3 Child Needs to Know, which can be purchased here.

Click below to see a related activity:

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