A 50-year Passion Project
The spark of a passion, the pursuit of an interest, and a commitment to excellence. I recently saw the culmination of all these ideas come to life in the work of Stano Lajda. Mr. Lajda just celebrated his 60th birthday and makes his home in Zilina, Slovakia. I learned of Stano Lajda on a recent mission to serve as an English teacher at a kids’ camp. We stayed with the charming pastors of a church in Zilina who had a beautiful painting of their wedding hanging in the living room. When we asked about it, they told us that their friend and parishioner, Stano Lajda, had painted it as an anniversary gift. Our hosts then told us a short story Stano when he was a little boy. He had received a small card version of Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper from his grandfather and then later saw it again in a book and recognized it as the same piece of art he had gotten as a gift. Those two events sparked an interest in Stano to learn everything he could about the painting, and he developed a particular love of Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper painting. Such a love, that he devoted the next 50 years to studying and recreating the Last Supper.
The next day we walked the charming streets of Zilina and stumbled across the small palace that hosted an exhibit of Stano Lajda’s work and decided to see if there was anything interesting inside. We were quickly humbled by the exhibit. Every piece inside was devoted to the Last Supper and every piece was a masterpiece. The explanations of the exhibit were written entirely in Slovak, but no explanations were necessary to see Stano Lajda’s commitment to his art and DaVinci’s art. It also helped that we had an AP Art History teacher with us who added her own expertise to our experience. The exhibit started on the first floor with the small Last Supper card that sparked his initial interest, and then it showcased some of his studies-pictures and sketches of the rectory in Milan that houses the Last Supper, sketch studies of hands and noses and other singular features of the painting, and a jaw dropping self-portrait of Lajda embracing a recreation of the Last Supper. As inspiring as the first-floor works were, we were unprepared for the masterpieces that awaited us upstairs. Stano Lajda used years and years of research and practice to recreate everything in the Last Supper as it would have been when DaVinci first created it. He painted a giant individual portrait of Jesus and each of the disciples at the table. His research revealed parts of the painting that have been lost over time and he restored those to DaVinci’s original vision. He demonstrated how DaVinci depicted the light from the rectory windows as the light source for the original work of art. He recreated the shields and patterns that surrounded the Last Supper. He had one painting dedicated to the feet that now missing from the original Last Supper where someone decided the refectory needed a door. There was no aspect of the original work that Stano Lajda didn’t research and repaint in masterful detail. The pinnacle of the exhibit was a life-size recreation of the Last Supper, in its entirety, using every color and detail as Leonardo DaVinci would have done it. It was particularly inspiring for me to watch my friend and art history teacher, who has taught this painting multiple times, discover new information and capture photos to add to her lessons.
Stano Lajda has spent his entire adult career focused on restoring and educating others, including a 500-page book, on this one historical masterpiece, preserving it for generations to come. All because one grandfather ignited a spark in an adolescent boy who then pursued it with unabandoned passion. Chance to Soar is committed to sending little sparks into our community in hopes of igniting a passion in a young mind. Who knows what small gift we might give a child that might light a fire similar to that of Stano Lajda!