Composition/Events within the Last Supper by Leonardo

The Last Supper (1495-1498) was painted on the backwall of a dining hall in a Dominican Covenant of Sta Maria delle Grazie in Italy. The painting was based upon the scripture passage in Matthew 26:20-23, "Now when the evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat, He said, 'Verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.' And they were exceeding suprised, and began every one of them to say unto Him, 'Lord, is it I?' And He answered them and said, 'He that dippeth his hand with Me in the dish, the same will betray Me.'"

Due to the discovery of one of Leonardo's manuscripts in the nineteenth century, all figure's identities are known. Previously only Jesus, Peter, and Judas were agreed upon by scholars. One of the reasons this painting is so intriguing is because of the various expressions and actions portrayed in the scene. Jesus is seated in the middle as the vanishing point, with two groups of three on each side. Described below is each groups depiction.

Bartholomew, James son of Alphaeus, and Andrew: On the far left, all three have looks of suprise.
Judas, Peter, and John: Drawn to the left of Jesus, this group is the most interesting. Judas is in the shadows clutching a small bag, foreshadowing his betrayl of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver or in reference to his position as the treasurer. Peter has an expression of anger, and is holding a knife pointed away from Jesus, probably in reference to his violent reaction when Jesus was arrested. John appears to swoon.
Thomas, James the Greater, and Philip: They are seated as the first group on the right side.Thomas is clearly upset and James looks stunned with his arms thrown into the air. Philip appears to be requesting an explanation from Jesus.
Matthew, Jude, and Simon the Zealot: On the far right, Jude and Matthew are turned towards Simon, perhaps to find out if he has any answers to their questions.

This painting was very shocking when first displayed, and the Dominican monks were very upset at Leonardo. The main reason for this uproar was the placement of Judas. In former paintings of the Last Supper, Judas was clearly shown as an outcast. Common practices were placing Judas in a dark corner or on the opposite side of the table. Another technique was to place halos above everyone's head with the exception of Judas.

Other events in the painting excluding the disciples were the multiple references to the Trinity. The groups of disciples appear in three, behind Jesus are three windows, and some say that Jesus is painted in the shape of a triangle. Another interesting point is the appearance of Jesus and Judas taking bread from the same loaf.

The famous painting started decaying almost immediately after it was produced. Leonardo had tried a new mixture of paint called tempera made of egg yolk, vinegar and oil paint. He also chose to paint on dry plaster instead of the usual wet plaster. Many restorations have been made, one of the attempts still happening today.



Heraclitus is a figure in Raphael's painting, The School of Athens (1510-1511). The painting has been called "the visualization of knowlege" by some because all of the figures have made a contribution to a special area or areas. Heraclitus was a dark, melancholy philosopher who usually did not like others. Some believe this is why he is a lone figure in the painting, the only clearly isolated figure apart from Diogenes.

Some believe that Heraclitus is Michelangelo, because the artist also like being alone. However, some critics think that Heraclitus was not meant to be in the painting. Some say that Heraclitus was added later by an meddling cardinal or a learned humanist who wanted to fill what they thought was an open space. Another thought is that the figure is Heraclitus, but because of the awkward posture and out of scale dimensions, the figure was painted by one of Raphael's apprentices.