Hi everyone! I hope you are all doing okay during this weird time in our lives. Because Easter is coming up, I thought it would be nice to look over an artwork that deals with the Last Supper.
The Last Supper was essentially the last supper that Christ had on Earth. It was on the Jewish feast of Passover that Christ washed the feet of his disciples, and they later shared their last meal together with Christ. At the dinner, Christ was aware that Judas had already planned to betray him to Caiaphas. This iconography is a significant topic in artwork in many different decades; there are different artworks that depict the moment before Christ tells the Apostles he will die that night and that one of the disciples has betrayed him or after he tells them. Because this is such a well-known topic and has been created by many artists, we often see attempts by different artists to include an element of originality in the art to make it unique.
The discussion example today is a fresco of the Last Supper created by Cosimo Rosselli and Biagio d’Antonio in 1481 and 1482.
This fresco was created in the Sistine Chapel under the commission of Pope Sixtus IV. On the top, the frieze says, “REPLICATIO LEGIS EVANGELICAE A CHRISTO” (Repetition of the Evangelical Law by Christ). The table is in a U shape, so Rosselli and d’Antonio are demonstrating that they understand how to create perspective effectively.
Christ is in the middle of the table on the other side. Christ appears to be looking at Judas, and he is holding on the bread, which will become the Eucharist, and the chalice of wine, which will be transformed in the blood of Christ, is in front of him. Along side of Christ are eleven Apostles. On the inner side of the table, Judas is siting alone. What Rosselli and d’Antonio have done here is they have placed Judas on our side; therefore, the two artists are saying that like Judas, we are also sinners. Also, this scene is suppose to depict the moment after Christ has told the Disciples that one of them will betray, which is probably why Christ is staring at Judas.
Towards the background, Rosselli and d’Antonio created beautiful paintings within this fresco that are separated by elaborate pilasters. The painting on the left demonstrates the Agony of the Garden, what happened right after the Last Supper. Here, Christ was praying to God saying, “‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me’,” but since it was God’s will For Christ to die, he had to; therefore, Christ said, “‘still, not my will but yours be done'” (Luke 22:42). So God sent Christ an angel for comfort, while the Apostles were asleep.
The middle painting includes the scene where the soldiers come into the Garden of Gethsemane to get Christ. The soldiers carry big shields with “SPQR,” which makes reference to the Roman Empire. In the right, we can see an apostle, who is believed to be St. Peter, on a soldier. He is either about to cut the ear off the soldier or already has. It is possible that he will do this later and Christ will say, “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26: 52). In the middle, Christ is with Judas. Judas is about to kiss him in order to inform the soldiers that this is the man they need to take.
On the right, Rosselli and d’Antono include the painting of Christ’s crucifixion in Golgotha. Here, Christ is on the Cross with two other men on each side, one who ridiculed Christ and another who Christ promised would “today…be with [him] in Paradise” (Luke 24: 43). Underneath Christ is a variety of soldiers and we see two Marys, the Virgin Mary, and Luke holding Mary as she has fainted. It is possible that the soldiers are now going to pierce his side. Lastly, behind Christ, we can see the weather changing from bright and light to cloudy and chaotic. This is because after the death of Christ, “the earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matthew 28: 51-52).
All Images from Wikipedia