Salon recommends

A close-up look at the meticulous restoration of Leonardo's "Last Supper," a comic view of the new ruling class and their outsize accouterments and more.


Salon Staff
May 29, 2001 11:15PM (UTC)

What we're reading, what we're liking

Leonardo: The Last Supper with essays by Pinin Brambilla Barcilon and Pietro C. Marani
This massive volume testifies to a great love of both Leonardo's crumbling masterpiece and the meticulous craft of art restoration. From the moment he started painting it in the refectory of the Santa Maria della Grazie monastery in Milan -- using an experimental technique in which paint was applied to dry plaster rather than the traditional fresco method of painting on wet plaster -- Leonardo's work began to flake and crumble. It was subjected to at least four attempts at repainting, the first quite possibly by the master himself. And it survived an Allied bombing attack in 1943 that nearly destroyed the rest of the building. Although this most recent and most ambitious restoration is controversial, the results -- exhaustively photographed here, in full-scale as well as reductions -- are impressive, with the lines emerging as simultaneously more subtle and more forceful, and the shadows, particularly in the striking figure of Philip, as more mysterious and tender. There are lots of close-ups of cracked and semidisintegrated paint for those intrigued by the nitty-gritty of the process.

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-- Laura Miller

Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There by David Brooks

Brooks makes it clear in his introduction to "Bobos in Paradise" that he based the idea of the "bourgeois bohemian" on his personal observations, not research or statistics: "I just went out and tried to describe how people are living, using a method that might best be described as comic sociology." And its Brooks pointed observations of a newer, hipper American elite - made more obvious to him after living abroad for four years -- that make "Bobos in Paradise," just out in paperback, so hilarious. Brooks details the ideologies and idiosyncracies of the well-educated, Information Age rich folks whove fused consumerism and counterculture and feel pretty good about it. Brooks, a senior editor at the Weekly Standard, has a soft spot for the Bobos too, despite his relentless skewering of their weather-beaten furniture, faux modesty and all-terrain baby carriages. His take on the New York Times wedding page is enough reason to pick up "Bobos," as are his ruminations on the evolution of white-bread Wayne, Pa., formerly home to the "country club and martini" crowd, now full of "the PBS-NPR cohort: vineyard-touring doctors, novel-writing lawyers, tenured gardening buffs, unusually literary realtors, dangly-earringed psychologists, and the rest of us information age burghers."

-- Suzy Hansen

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