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Renaissance Top 48: Last Supper (Leonardo)

Identification

Leonardo da Vinci, Last Supper ca. 1495-1498

Context

The emotions da Vinici gives the figures express their reactions to Christ's words.  This painting depicts Jesus telling his disciples that "One of you is about to betray me...But yet behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table".  Judas' body language and emotion seems the most unsurprised of all the figures, since the viewer knows that he is the guilty one who ends up betraying Christ. 

Leonardo da Vinci read this Gospel story carefully and applied his knowledge of both scripture and the world around him to depict this dramatic, religious scene.  The Last Supper image represents the idea that figures should be able to express emotion and psychological realism. 

Content

Christ and his disciples are scene depicted here, seated at one side of a long table within a simple and spacious room. Christ sits in the center and disciples are in groups of three, and are meant to be reacting to Christ's words.  Jesus' arms reach toward both a piece of bread and a glass of wine, which represent the body and blood of Christ.  Though it is difficult to see, the curved pediment above the center window behind Christ is meant to frame is figure. 

The two disciples at either end of the table, face inward toward Jesus, as if to frame the rest of the figures at the table.  Judas is dressed in blue and is sat turned back towards the others while holding a bag of coins.  He is depicted in a shadow, which represents his loss from the light of Christ. Emotions of the figures are also evident and include fear, doubt, protestation, and love. 

Image

Form

This fresco (oil and tempera on plaster) is almost 13 by 30 feet large and remains in the refectory of the Santa Maria delle Grazie church in Milan, where it was painted over 500 years ago. 

This image contain linear perspective, making the room seem as though it extends backwards.  These parallel lines would meet a point of convergence behind Christ's head.  This type of perspective and composition draws the viewer's eyes to Jesus in the center of the fresco painting.   A landscape scene is also slightly visible beyond the windows behind the figures.  This atmospheric (or aerial) perspective creates depth within the painting.  In addition, Christ is sat with his arms open and slightly stretched, creating pyramidal composition which represents the Holy Trinity. 

Function

The main function of da Vinci's Last Supper would be to depict the story of Christ announcing to his disciples that one of them will betray him.  It also functions to represent the serenity and power of Jesus compared to the chaos and emotion of humans.