How Da Vinci's The Last Supper Survived a Bomb During WWII

Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper has been one of the most revered and well-known works of art in the world for more than five centuries. But during World War II, it almost became “history” in more than one sense of the word.

In August 1943, Allied leaders bombed a number of Italian cities, including Milan. Many historic churches and buildings containing pieces by master artists were either destroyed or severely damaged, including the Duomo, the Castello Sforzesco, the Teatro alla Scala, and Santa Maria delle Grazie.

The latter was the church where Leonardo had painted The Last Supper mural directly on one of the walls in 1495. On August 15, a high-explosive bomb landed a mere 80 feet away from the mural. The building was virtually demolished: The roof caved in, the cloister collapsed, and entire walls were blown out. You can see from the picture how much of the church was destroyed.

Miraculously, the wall the mural was on was still standing when the dust cleared. Hoping to protect Leonardo's work against just such an attack, officials had guarded it with sandbags and scaffolding years before. The precaution was one many museums and churches across Italy had taken when war broke out—even sculptures such as Michelangelo's David were encased in brick towers to protect them from bombs and shrapnel.

Because they didn’t want to expose the piece to the elements, Monuments Men and other officials were unable to assess the damage right away. "Leonardo's Last Supper may be in ruins," Monuments Man Deane Keller wrote in 1944. Amazingly, when the scaffolding was removed, da Vinci's masterpiece was in relatively good condition.

It’s actually not the first time The Last Supper has come close to destruction. During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon’s soldiers bunked in Santa Maria della Grazie. When they got bored, they used The Last Supper for target practice, with Jesus's face as the bullseye. They hit the mark at least a couple of times, but the mural has since been restored.

Paris Musées Digitized More than 100,000 Major Artworks and Made Them Downloadable

“Setting Sun on the Seine at Lavacourt” by Claude Monet
“Setting Sun on the Seine at Lavacourt” by Claude Monet
Paris Musées, CC0

The museums of Paris are home to some of the most influential artworks on Earth, and if you live outside France, you no longer need a passport to see them. As Smithsonian reports, Paris Musées—the organization behind 14 of the city's iconic museums—has digitized more than 100,000 paintings and other pieces of art and made them freely available to the public.

The institutions under Paris Musées's umbrella include the Petit Palais, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and Maison de Balzac. It started sharing the work in its inventory online in 2016, and has since uploaded more than 320,000 pictures.

Roughly a third of the images in that digital collection were published in January 2020. This recent update was part of Paris Musées's initiative toward embracing open-access art. Every one of the 100,000-plus images uploaded in this month fall under the Creative Commons Zero license, which means they are fully in the public domain. Works like "Young Ladies on the Banks of the Seine" by Gustave Courbet, “Setting Sun on the Seine at Lavacourt” by Claude Monet, and "Portrait of Ambroise Vollard” by Paul Cézanne, are now not only free to view, but free to download as well.

"Portrait of Ambroise Vollard” by Paul Cézanne
"Portrait of Ambroise Vollard” by Paul Cézanne
Paris Musées, CC0

Paris Musées eventually hopes to transition all the out-of-copyright items in its collection—which comprises roughly 1 million works—to a Creative Commons Zero license. The most recent image dump is just the first round, and other art will become available gradually as the institution carefully evaluates the copyright status of each piece. It plans to someday expand its public domain artworks to external platforms like Wikimedia Commons, but for now, you can find them on Paris Musées's website.

[h/t Smithsonian]

Apple Wants to Show Off Your Best Night Mode Photos as Part of a New Campaign

Austin Mann, Apple
Austin Mann, Apple

Calling all aspiring photographers who nabbed an iPhone 11 for the express purpose of trying out its fancy camera capabilities: It’s time for your night mode photos to see the light of day.

As Travel + Leisure reports, Apple is currently hosting a competition to find the best night mode photos taken on an iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, or iPhone 11 Pro Max. You can submit your photos through January 29, after which a carefully selected team of experts will evaluate all submissions and announce the five winning images on March 4.

Judges include Arem Duplessis, the former design director of The New York Times Magazine; Darren Soh, an award-winning photographer from Singapore; Tyler Mitchell, the first black photographer to shoot the cover of American Vogue (his subject, rather memorably, was Beyoncé); and several other esteemed members of the industry.

golden gate bridge shot on iphone 11
The Golden Gate Bridge, shot on an iPhone 11 Pro.
Jude Allen, Apple

In addition to appearing on Apple’s homepage and Instagram (which has more than 21 million followers), the photos could also be featured in digital campaigns, Apple stores, third-party photo exhibitions, or even on physical billboards. In addition to all the exposure, the winners will be paid a licensing fee in exchange for granting the company complete freedom to use their work for one year.

To submit your shots, you can either share them on a public Instagram, Twitter, or Weibo account with the hashtags #ShotoniPhone and #NightmodeChallenge, or email your images to shotoniphone@apple.com—just be sure to title your files in this format: ‘firstname_lastname_nightmode_iPhonemodel.’

If you’re new to the iPhone 11 and aren’t quite sure how to snap photos in night mode, it’s easier than you might realize. The feature comes on automatically in dim or dark places and decides on a capture time for you (which you can always adjust). And if you think editing your photos afterward will increase your chances of winning the competition, that’s fine, too: Apple will accept photos edited in the app or even with non-Apple software.

You might want to avoid capturing the Eiffel Tower after dark, however—here’s why.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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