Have you ever wondered why a painting of twelve men having dinner conquered the attention of the whole world? I came to realize that us as viewers have to look deeper into the painting than the surface. Let’s take a journey into another dimension embedded within the Last Supper and find out why it was the first of its kind.
Have you looked at the Last Supper, and thought to yourself that there is more to it than just a still image. I always felt that the painting seems like a movie, but lacked the animation. The Last Supper depicts when Christ told his Apostles that one of them was going to betray him. But Da Vinci not only creates the religious scene, he also implants emotions in it. The figures in the painting seem to be alive, because of their body language when they react to Christ’s statement. As I watched a Smarthisory video analysis of the Last Supper by Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker, they pointed some of the Apostle’s reaction. One of them is the Judas “pulling away in astonishment,” (Video) because he was shocked by the thought that Christ may know that he will be the one to betray him. The expression on the faces of every character “creates an imaginary conversation,” (Video) that makes me feel as if I was immersed within the painting itself. I think that Da Vinci did what many artists before were never able to fully achieve: to absorb the viewers into his world of art.
Leave the world within the Last Supper and take a huge step back. Now that you have a better view of the general shape of the painting, focus on the body of Christ. As I have read from a Smarthistory article that analyses the painting, the shape of Christ’s body is a triangle, which represents geometry. “Geometry, used by the Greeks to represent Heavenly perfection”(Harris, Zucker), shows us that Christ is the heavenly embodiment on earth. The “halo of light” (Video) and the landscape shown through the windows behind Christ supposedly represent “Heavenly sanctuary, (which) can only be reached through Christ”(Harris, Zucker). The three windows and the figures are separated in Groups of three is a “reference to the Holy Trinity in Catholic Art” (Harris, Zucker). I personally hypothesize that Leonardo wanted symbolize aspects of Christianity and the Renaissance through use of simple details, like body shape. The simplicity allows so many aspects to be added to the painting.
There is always something bugging me when I look at the Last Supper. I can name you many other paintings that are more interesting to look at, but there will never be anything as hypnotizing as the Last Supper. The package of pure genius in the Last Supper was the firsts of its kind.
“Leonardo, Last Super, 1495-98” (Video), Smarthistory.org, Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris, Dr. Steven Zucker (12:32). Accessed February 23, 2012. http://vimeo.com/23795724
Dr. Beth Harris, Dr. Steven Zucker, “Leonardo’s Last Supper,” Smarthistory.org, Accessed February 26, 2012