Tuesday, 7 April 2020

The Last Supper observed

Apologies - I wrote this Monday and forgot to post it on here
Ten years ago I visited Milan on holiday. One of the "musts" there is, of course, Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper".  I had to book a time slot beforehand, and go though security like an airport and through a kind of airlock into the climate controlled room, the former refectory of the monastery of Santa Maria ella Grazie where it is. There we had, I think fifteen minutes to stare at one of the most famous images in all of western art. 
The painting shows the reaction of each apostle when Jesus said one of them would betray him. All twelve have different reactions to the news, and they were eventually using a manuscript found in the 19th century. 
From left to right:
Bartholemew, James son of Alphaeus and Andrew are all looking very surprised.
Next, Judas is in shadow, looking withdrawn and taken aback by the sudden revelation of his plan. He's holding a small bag, maybe with the silver given to him as payment to betray Jesus, or perhaps a reference to his job as treasurer. He is the only person to have his elbow on the table and his head is also the lowest down of any of them. Peter looks angry and seems to be holding a knife, maybe referring to his violent reaction at Gethsemane.   He's leaning towards John and touching him on the shoulder, because John's Gospel says  where he gets John to ask Jesus who is the betrayer. John himself, the youngest, seems overcome and leans towards Peter.
After Jesus come Thomas, who is clearly upset; the raised finger maybe foreshadowing his doubts about the Resurrection. James, the Greater, looks maybe the most stunned, his arms in the air, while Philip looks like he wants an explanation. The last group are Matthew, Jude (Thaddeus) and Simon the Zealot. Matthew and Jude look like they want some explanation from Simon, who ain't got one...

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