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Life-Size Wooden Sculpture of the Last Supper – Is It Just Another Religious Statue?

Exactly what and where is it?

The Zappia sculpture is a 17-foot-long life-size wooden recreation of the Last Supper, based on Leonardo da Vinci’s fresco in Milan, Italy. Its 13 figures (Christ and his 12 disciples) were each carved from a 500-pound block of laminated basswood. Completed, each figure weighs at least 200 lbs. The dinner table, its fabric covering and its cutlery are also in linden.

This sculpture is located in a special viewing room at the Country Club Christian Church, 6101 Ward Parkway, Kansas City, MO, where it can be viewed by visitors during weekday business hours and on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Its viewing room features glass-enclosed humidity, temperature and lighting controls, as well as benches and a recorded message. A tour guide is available for groups of 12 or more.

who carved it?

According to published church literature, Domenic Zappia came to the United States from Italy in the early 1900s, when he was four years old. At 17, his stepfather enrolled him in the Cleveland School of Art. He graduated with honors.

After much success in other parts of the United States, he came to Kansas City in 1926 to do ornamental artwork in a large theater and other places there. In 1958 he was commissioned to make this large sculpture of the Last Supper for a cemetery chapel project in Charleston, WV. He completed it in 1962. However, the cemetery chapel was never completed. The sculpture was then loaned for several years.

The story (he has travelled a lot).

After being viewed by 70,000 people locally in 1962, the sculpture was stored for shipment to the 1964 New York World’s Fair where it remained for a year. After that, he went to Kennedy International Airport until 1972. During this interim, two Kansas City civic leaders funded their church above to purchase the sculpture from its owner WV in 1971. At that time, however they had no proper place to keep it. Thus, it was exhibited at selected fundraising events and in museums, chapels, a large church and a college before arriving at its current home in 2000.

Artistic significance.

Zappia regularly studied the Christian Bible. He felt that he knew the disciples well. So he had his own ideas on how to do their features. His work is not a simple copy of the fresco by Vinci. However, his miniatures are placed on the table in the same way. Seen from the left, they are Bartholomew, James the Minor, Andrew, Judas, Peter, John, Jesus, Thomas, James the Greater, Philip, Thaddeus, Matthew and Simon.

Zappia was happy all the time doing this job. He felt inspired many times over the four years he worked on it. Also, his long-standing ulcer did not bother him during this time. Additionally, he completed the sculpture without any chipping errors or self-harm, and without having to redo any of the figures with a new block of basswood.

Moreover, the lime tree itself gives a visual impact to its viewers. Basswood is a fine-grained, fibrous golden hardwood from lime trees. It does not split easily. Thus, its luminous appearance seen under the soft lighting combined with the artist’s detailed, smooth and ingenious sculpting of the figure’s hands, clothes, face and human features leaves viewers in a state of wonder.

Conclusion. To answer the original question, barely. Because there are only a few life-size sculptures of the Last Supper, this one stands out for its realistic imagery. Also, like other artists with divine intuition, Zappia was truly inspired for this work. For more information on wood carving, check out these websites.

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