When the Duke of Milan, Lodovico Sforza, commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to paint a depiction of the Last Supper on a refectory wall of the Dominican convent, Santa Maria delle Grazie, he could not have dreamed of the ways in which the painting would capture the imagination of not just academic scholars but the mass public over five hundred years after its creation. A painting which survived a bombing in the Second World War and was nearly lost due to a miscalculation by the painter himself has inspired authors and historians to pen theories about its meaning—the most popular and controversial being the claim that Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus and is the figure seated to his right.
When we look at a work of art or open a book we are captured by the nature of that object, whether it’s due to the paint, the sculpted marble, or the printed page. As a sensory experience, we respond to the tactile perceptivity of the surface. The thingness of the object declares itself. Reading text on a computer screen is without this real-world experience.