In this image, there are thirteen figures, which represent Jesus Christ and his twelve apostles during the Last Supper. Other than the figures, there is also a long, white table with plates and what looks like bread. Below the table, four chairs and feet could be seen. The figures are mostly bearded, long-haired and wearing robes of varying colours. At the back of the centre figure are three windows, which occupy the centre of the image. At the sides are wall hangings. From the windows, the viewer could see the outline of mountains.
The image is composed of organic and geometric shapes. Lines are utilised to create balance among the long table, the side hangings, the windows, and the chairs. The figures are given equal treatment, none of which is out of focus.
The Last Supper created by Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci was a mural painting made from combination of pitch, gesso and mastic. Other paintings of this subject were made using oil on canvas as well as other mediums.
Looking at the image, the first thing that I noticed was the discourse that the apostles to the left and right of Jesus were having. What’s also noticeable is the elegance of the figures, the setting, and the symmetry — a reflection of da Vinci’s scientific side that values exactness and balance. I would have imagined the Last Supper scene to be simpler since Jesus and the apostles were common people. What I have in mind is similar to Jacopo Bassano’s 1542 interpretation of the Last Supper, showing barefoot fishermen gathered around Jesus in a disorderly manner.
In the scene, some of the apostles seem to be asking him something, while others are talking among themselves. Knowing the context under which the photograph was made, I’m quite curious to note why Jesus had that calm look on his face. The question though is, did Jesus really look calm when he told the apostles about the betrayal? Jesus was in his human form when this event took place. Being human at that time, maybe he was showing more emotion than what is shown in the image. But since this photograph looks the same as da Vinci’s painting, then it was created during the Renaissance period where central figures normally had archaic smiles. The same archaic smile and elegance could be observed in da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting.
When I look at the Last Supper, I’m always struck at the significance of this event to man’s salvation. It was during this meal that Jesus told his disciples about the betrayal, yet he didn’t condemn that person, an example set for Christians to be forgiving to those who sinned against them. After this meal, the soldiers came and took Jesus prisoner, an ordeal that made Jesus suffered and died. Although the event itself was painful to imagine, it resulted to the liberation of the human spirit. As such, I view the Last Supper as a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. The painting also gives me a sense of assurance in the existence of a higher being who does not see us as sinners but as beings in his image and likeness.
Fact About The Last Supper
The most famous Last Supper interpretation was a mural painting in Milan created between 1495 to 1498 by Leonardo da Vinci, as a commission from the Duke Ludovico
Sforza and Duchess Beatrice d’Este. It can be found in Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. Normally, mural paintings in that period were made using the fresco technique, or painting on freshly spread moist lime plaster with water-based pigments. Da Vinci wanted to experiment with a new technique, the egg tempera, in order to get more colours and redo portions when needed, which was the reason why it took him four years to complete his work. Although the resulting work was a success, the paint didn’t stay long on the plaster and kept falling off in pieces. In modern times, restorations have been made to reconstruct how experts believe the original painting looked like.
The Last Supper, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, is the final meal shared by Jesus Christ and his disciples on the eve of his passion, during which time he instituted the Holy Eucharist. This was also the time when Jesus announced the betrayal of one of the apostles, depicted in the painting through the different reactions displayed in the disciples’ faces, from shock to anger to disbelief.
Leonardo da Vinci’s interpretation of the narration in the Gospel of John 13:21, is different from other earlier depictions. In da Vinci’s work, Judas was differentiated by making his figure lean back into the shadows, contrary to other works where Judas was the only figure not to have a halo around him.
The Last Supper is one of the most famous paintings of all time. It has been imitated and reproduced many times. In fact, Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code published in 2003
revolved around hidden messages in the painting that would trace Jesus’ royal bloodline and his descendants.
Catholic missionaries and critics generally agree that the Last Supper happened on a Thursday, Jesus’ passion of the cross occurred on a Friday, and that he rose from the dead on a Sunday. There is however, disagreement on which month the event took place. In recent times, the Catholic celebration of Christ’s Passion normally falls in March or April every year.
The room where the Last Supper was held is believed to be owned by one of the apostles, the same place where Jesus showed himself after he resurrected. Other important Catholic events that were held in the same hall include the sending of the Holy Spirit, the breaking of bread, and holding church activities in Jerusalem.
Da Vinci’s depiction of the Last Supper was by no means the first and last one to be made on the subject. From Dr. Ralph F. Wilson’s list of Last Supper paintings, the oldest seem to be made in 1450 by Fra Angelico using tempera on wood. In this painting, the figures appeared to be having a regular conversation. The postures were relaxed and one or two apostles were standing, which could mean that Jesus had not told his disciples yet about the betrayal. A serving woman was part of the twelve figures in the painting. Unlike da Vinci’s work, this painting seems out of focus. Each of the figures has a halo around his head, implying that Judas was not among them, or maybe hidden from view. Other depictions only show Jesus with some of the apostles. The most recent Last Supper painting appears to be one from Andy Warhol in 1986.
Mershman, Francis. “The Last Supper.” 1912. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. 25
November 2007 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14341a.htm>
Wills, Keith. “Basics of Photo Evaluation or Critique.” Keith Wills Design. 25 November 2007
“The Last Supper: Leonardo da Vinci, Mary Magdalene, The Hand and Knife.” 2007. Minerva
WebWorks LLC. 26 November 2007
“il Cenacolo: Last Supper.” Brera Gallery. 27 November 2007
Wilson, Ralph F. “Artwork and Paintings of the Lord’s Supper and Last Supper.” 1985-2007.
Joyful Heart Renewal Ministries. 27 November 2007