The Firsts of the Last (Supper)

            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.

Works Consulted

“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

http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/leonardo-last-supper.html

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9 comments

  1. harry242424

    Hey Otto,
    I thought you blog about the Last Supper was very thoughtful and informative. I had no idea that Geometry back then represented Heavenly Perfection! If you don’t mind me asking, do you know why Da Vinci painted this scene or how he chose the facial expressions for each of the disciples?

    • ottol808

      Hi Harry! Sadly, I don’t know the answer to why Da Vinci chose to paint this painting. I think Da Vinci chose the facial expressions by using the text in the Bible that depicts the Last Supper and the events following it. For Example: Judas (The one with the darkest face) was the one who betrayed Jesus, so Da Vinci probably depicted this scene from what he gathered from the Bible by making Judas look guilty.

  2. mollyageofreason

    Hi Otto! Great job on your blog. I really learned a lot about all the symbolism Leonardo hid in the painting! Like you, I’d seen it before and had sort of wondered what the big deal was, and your blog helped me to understand it. I was wondering if you know why ancient Greeks used geometry to represent Divine perfection?
    Thanks!
    Molly

  3. kristin888

    Hi Otto! I really enjoyed reading your post!
    I find it very interesting that you say that this painting feels like a movie, but lacks animation. Do you think that the detailed depictions of emotions and facial expressions are enough to bring this painting to life, or is this painting simply meant to be a snapshot of a scene? Either way, I definitely agree that this painting really draws people into Leonardo da Vinci’s world of art.
    Thanks!
    Kristin

    • ottol808

      Hi Kristin! I think Da Vinci was trying revolutionize the art of painting with the depictions of emotions, and make paintings more interesting to look at. Thanks.

  4. brianthemathematician

    Hey Otto, I really liked reading your post; it was really interesting! Why do you think that “Leonardo wanted symbolize aspects of Christianity and the Renaissance through use of simple details, like body shape?” What other aspects could simplicity add to the painting?

    –Brian

  5. jisoo966

    Hi Otto! I really enjoyed reading your post! It was very interesting to know that Da vinci put emotions to the painting. I had never thought that the christ’s body represents geometry. Was Da vinci the only one who used geometry to represent heavenly perfection? Why do you think geometry was used to represent heavenly perfection?
    Thanks!
    -Jisoo

  6. Mr. Otto Lamsom:

    Intriguing post! I actually did similar researches on the last supper painting.
    I’ve also heard about a rumor about Leonardo drawing the body shape of Christ based on Leonardo himself’s shoulder weigh and thus indirectly presented Leonardo himself in this holy art. Anyway, the geometric saying is certainly more scientific and convincing!

    Gary L.

    • ottol808

      Thanks, Gary! I never knew that Leonardo tried to represented himself in the image of Christ! I think this is the same case with the Mona Lisa.

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