da Vinci's The Last Supper - Image Analysis

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The painting’s stylistic qualities and overall tone are revolutionary in nature, giving the painting a timeless quality that has endeared it to art critics and patrons…

Introduction

When one examines the work it is fairly simple to understand how the apostles’ reactions to Jesus depict their astonishment at his words. Da Vinci depicts them as astonished, crystallized in a performative, nearly ironic state of shock. Symbolically the image groups the apostles in groups of three, with each different group reacting to Jesus’ announcement in subtle yet pronounced ways. The groupings of three hold obvious religious significance as the number is echoed throughout the Bible in a number of incarnations. Perhaps the most relevant such incarnation in the context of this work is that which refers to Jesus’ resurrection after three days, as a direct result of his betrayal that led to his eventual crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. In one grouping, Bartholomew, James, son of Alphaeus and Andrew are depicted together as simple surprised. In another grouping, Judas Iscariot, Peter, and John are depicted together. In terms of Biblical significance this last grouping is the most relevant in terms of relation to Christ, as well as narrative significance within the painting. Peter and John represent two of the closet and Biblically significant disciples; also, as is well understood, Judas Iscariot is the one that would eventually betray Jesus. In the painting Judas Iscariot is depicted as the shocked and withdrawn. Scholars have noted that this is Leonardo’s attempt to depict the surprise Judas has experienced at Jesus’ revealing his machinations (Steinberg 2001). Similarly, it’s been argued that the bag Judas is clutching in his hand represents the money that he received from the individuals for turning Jesus over to them. Matthew, Jude Thaddeus and Simon the Zealot are depicted in another grouping. In this grouping the individuals are facing Simon, perhaps attempting to discern if he has any answers to the information that Jesus has just ...
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