During the final year of his life, Andy Warhol devoted himself with obsessive zeal to creating works after Leonardo da Vinci's famed mural The Last Supper. It would turn out to be Warhol's last great series, as he died in early 1987, soon after a selection of these works premiered at an exhibition. Warhol was attracted to Leonardo's masterwork because, as he explained in a final interview, "It's a good picture. It's something that you see all the time. You don't think about it" (A. Warhol, quoted in P. Taylor, "Andy Warhol: The Last Interview," reprinted in Andy Warhol: The Late Work, exh. cat., Dusseldorf, 2004, p. 119). In his version of The Last Supper, Warhol takes an image that has become familiar to the point of banality, and transforms it through his signature format of the repetitive silkscreen. He offers a fresh and provocative meditation on both the Renaissance masterpiece and religion's role in contemporary art and life.
In the mid-1980s, Warhol became fascinated with the idea of making artworks after various paintings from the history of art, translating them into his own Pop vocabulary through the silkscreen. In his "Art from Art" series, illustrations from art history texts took the place of the commercial images or press photos that he so brilliantly manipulated in his art since the early 1960s. Warhol was inspired to use Leonardo's Last Supper upon the suggestion of Alexandre Iolas, one of his first gallerists, who had relocated to Milan. Warhol immersed himself in the project with a passion that far exceeded the exhibition's demands. Some of the silkscreen compositions were included in the exhibition, which opened on January 22, 1987 to an enthusiastic audience. The show was held in the gallery of a bank in the Palazzo Stelline across the street from the famed church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, on whose refectory wall Leonardo painted his mural. Visitors were invited to visit the original, which was partially obscured since it was in the process of being restored, although very few took up the offer. Instead, several thousand visitors swarmed Warhol's exhibition, hoping to catch a glimpse of the "Pope of Pop" himself, turning it into a media frenzy. While in Milan, Warhol fell ill and returned to New York, where a month later he died from complications following gall bladder surgery.