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The Last Supper, Bible Paintings, with detail of Michelangelo's Last Supper

Jesus and his apostles: their last meal together 

Home                             Hidden Meanings                                Bible study: The Last Supper                                The Gospel Text 


 

Jesus, sensing his imminent arrest, had a last meal with his friends. He predicted his betrayal and death, and described how Peter and Judas would fail him. Then he asked the disciples to remember him whenever they celebrated a similar meal. This event is called the Last Supper.

The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci

The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci


 

The Last Supper, Joos van Cleve, detail

The Last Supper, Joos van Cleve, detail

 


Communion of the Apostles, James Tissot

Communion of the Apostles, James Tissot

 


The Last Supper, Pierre Dancart, Seville Cathedral

The Last Supper, Pierre Dancart, Seville Cathedral

 


The Last Supper, Hans Holbein the Younger, 1524

The Last Supper, Hans Holbein the Younger, 1524

 


The Last Supper, Phillippe de Champaigne

The Last Supper, Phillippe de Champaigne

 


The Last Supper, Fra Angelico, 1522

The Last Supper, Fra Angelico, 1522

 


The Last Supper, Passion Cycle, Ickleton, Cambridgeshire, 1150-1200

The Last Supper, Passion Cycle, Ickleton, Cambridgeshire, 1150-1200

 


The Last Supper, Simone Martini, 1333

The Last Supper, Simone Martini, 1333

 


The Last Supper, Dieric Bouts the Elder, 1464

The Last Supper, Dieric Bouts the Elder, 1464

 


The Last Supper, Nikolai Gay, 1863

The Last Supper, Nikolai Gay, 1863

 


The Last Supper, Meisters des Hausbuchs

The Last Supper, Meisters des Hausbuchs

 


The Last Supper, Nicolas Poussin, 1640's

The Last Supper, Nicolas Poussin, 1640's

 


The Last Supper, Tintoretto

The Last Supper, Tintoretto

 


The Last Supper, Valentin de Boulogne

The Last Supper, Valentin de Boulogne

 


The Last Supper, Juan de Juanes

The Last Supper, Juan de Juanes

 


The Last Supper, Pascal Dagnan Bouveret

The Last Supper, Pascal Dagnan Bouveret

 


Communion of the Apostles, Fra Angelico, 1451

Communion of the Apostles, Fra Angelico, 1451

 


The Last Supper, Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1486

The Last Supper, Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1486

 


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Paintings by

Valentin de Boulogne

Deiric Bouts the Elder

Pascal Dagnan Bouveret

Phillippe de Champaigne

Joos van Cleve

Pierre Dancart

Fra Angelico

Nicolai Gay

Domenico Ghirlandaio

Meisters des Hausbuchs

Hans Holbein the Younger

Juan de Juanes

Simone Martini

Passion Cycle, Ickleton

Nicolas Poussin

Tintoretto

James Tissot

Leonardo da Vinci

 

 

Hidden meanings  in the Last Supper paintings
  • Scenes of the Last Supper were ideal for churches with a wide altar space; the artist could show all 13 figures at a table. 

  • Look for Peter and John on either side of Jesus, and Judas, usually shown standing or sitting slightly apart from the other apostles and sometimes holding a purse of money, isolated or is in the act of leaving the table. Judas is sometimes shown with a dog at his feet, which is difficult to account for since the animal normally symbolizes fidelity.

  • After the Counter-Reformation there might be with additional figures - servants going in and out with dishes, or angels hovering overhead. 

  • Three moments in the meal are most often depicted: Christ's washing the feet of his disciples; his revelation that one of the disciples, whom he did not name, would betray him; and the communion of the Apostles. 

  • Upon Christ's revelation of the betrayal to come, the Apostles are sometimes shown with querying expressions as they point to themselves and ask, "Master, is it I?"  

  • In early paintings the apostles recline, propped on the left elbow, leaving the right arm free - this was the later Jewish custom in observing the Passover ritual. Originally the Passover meal was taken standing, just as the Israelites stood to eat in haste on the eve of the exodus. In Roman times a recumbent position at meals was the mark of the free man and was more appropriate to the Jewish festival of freedom. 

  • The sacramental interpretation of the Last Supper was eclipsed at the end of the 15th century by Leonardo da Vinci who turned away from doctrine to depict the human drama that sprang from Christ's announcement that he would be betrayed by one of those present. 

  • In representations of the announcement of the betrayal, there is no chalice. Christ sits at the centre of a long table, his hands outspread in a way that seems to imply resignation. Judas is distinguished in several ways. He may be sitting on the opposite side of the table from the rest and may be in the act of taking the sop of bread from Christ, or he may be dipping his own hand into the bowl.

 

The Bible text - the Last Supper

Matthew 26:17-30

17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the passover?" 18 He said, "Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, 'The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples.'" 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the passover. 20 When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; 21 and as they were eating, he said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." 22 And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, "Is it I, Lord?" 23 He answered, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. 24 The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Is it I, Master?" He said to him, "You have said so." 26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." 30

Mark 14:12-26

12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the passover lamb, his disciples said to him, "Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the passover?" 13 And he sent two of his disciples, and said to them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the householder, 'The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I am to eat the passover with my disciples?' 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us." 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city, and found it as he had told them; and they prepared the passover. 17 And when it was evening he came with the twelve. 18 And as they were at table eating, Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me." 19 They began to be sorrowful, and to say to him one after another, "Is it I?" 20 He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." 22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." 26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Luke 22:7-39

7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the passover for us, that we may eat it." 9 They said to him, "Where will you have us prepare it?" 10 He said to them, "Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house which he enters, 11 and tell the householder, 'The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I am to eat the passover with my disciples?' 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; there make ready." 13 And they went, and found it as he had told them; and they prepared the passover. 14 And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 20 And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of man goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!" 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it was that would do this. 24 A dispute also arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 "You are those who have continued with me in my trials; 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 31 "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren." 33 And he said to him, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death." 34 He said, "I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you three times deny that you know me." 35 And he said to them, "When I sent you out with no purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" They said, "Nothing." 36 He said to them, "But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, 'And he was reckoned with transgressors'; for what is written about me has its fulfilment." 38 And they said, "Look, Lord, here are two swords." And he said to them, "It is enough." 39 And he came out, and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him.

John 13:21-30

21 When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, "Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; 24 so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, "Tell us who it is of whom he speaks." 25 So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, "Lord, who is it?" 26 Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it." So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the feast"; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night.

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Bible Art: Paintings and Artworks from the New Testament:  the Last Supper

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