“The last supper”, “L’ultima cena” is one of the most passionate themes which, starting with the religious motif has spread along the centuries, overcoming physical boundaries and symbolic interpretations.
Probably the most known artistic approach on this subject is the huge mural in oil and tempera painted by Leonardo da Vinci in Milano, upon request by the Duque Sforza and the Duchess Beatrice. The 13 characters, Jesus and his apostles have been given expressions and attitudes that have remained anthological.
Was it the Jewish Pesach night; was it the farewell supper of Jesus from his disciples? Should we believe the story of the Holy Graal, the presence of Mary Magdalene, da Vinci’s Code? Or let us better admire this masterpiece of the great Leonardo, which is considered, alongside with Mona Lisa among his best artworks. However, throughout the centuries, there weren´t few the artists who tried their tools to try to immortalize the famous scene. From Rubens and Rembrandt to Dührer and Holbein the Young, from Titoretto to El Greco and Juan de Juanes, from Ghirlandaio and Dirk Bouts to James Tissot and Gustave Doré, to Cosimo Rosseli and Andrea del Sarto, Jacopo Bassano and Phillipe de Champaigne … to Dalí and Andy Warhol!
This theme has attracted, long before that, the attention of anonymous byzantine artists, Russian orthodox iconography artists, catholic masters of stained glass, we find it sculpted in the Wood of the altars, meticulously inserted in ancient mosaics, in Flemish tapestries. Leaving behind the old world, the theme has been moreover worked on by Japanese artists, American Indians, Indonesian craftsmen, African empirics. Breaking free from the conventions, we find this same subject in musicals, operas, on youtube, on photographies, T-shirts, cd-s, sculptures, even in the form of salt, reproductions, postal stamps, scarves, dolls, cheap posters. We even find it as names for restaurants or night clubs.
Letting aside the initial connotations and the religion, the subject has proven to be a source of inspiration for modern, intelligent replicas, which give another meaning to the conventional, bring an air of contemporaneity, spirituality, leading to meditation or surprise. Sometimes, behind a show we find a group of idealists, other times frustrated liberals or ambitious contestataries. We can even find a replica in a cartoon or TV ad for a certain product, the supper offering a generous exhibition space.
However, I find most interesting the creations in which the characters are replaced. An example of great notoriety offered the Israeli photographer Adi Nes with a scene in which he replaces the characters, the disciples by soldiers. Also of interest there is the work of the artist Orna Ben Shoshan in which she reverses the sex of the characters or of the painter-architect Arik Schneider which places the same figure, repeated, in 13 positions, and this repeated characters being himself.