The Composition and Images of The Last Supper, World Famous Painting
In the composition of Da Vinci’s Last Supper, the Apostles and their reactions at hearing the news that one of them would betray Jesus are the focal points. The traditional perception of the Last Supper has always focused on Jesus. However, much of the painting is revealed in the actions of his disciples. Every one of the apostles reacts differently, each of them grouped into four groups of three.
So How Many Disciples Were at the Last Supper?
The first group, consisting of Bartholomew, James Alphaeus and Andrew are all shocked and huddled together.
The second group of three consists of Judas Iscariot, Peter and John. This is the most controversial of the four groupings as it consist of Judas and John, who many have described as looking feminine. Judas himself is dressed in green and blue and recessed into the shadows, looking taken aback at the revelation. He holds a small bag, possibly signifying the silver he received for his betrayal. His elbow rests on the table along with that of Jude Thaddeus’s, a rude gesture of bad manners. Peter holds a knife in his hand and points it away from Christ. Finally John, the youngest of the apostles swoons in his pose.
The third grouping consists of Thomas, James Zebedee and Philip. Thomas is upset, though not angry while James is stunned by the news, with his arms raised into the air. Philip is confused in some manner, seeking further explanation of the situation.
The final grouping includes Matthew, Jude and Simon. Matthew and Jude are both turned toward Simon as though seeking answers.
It was not until the 19th century, when one of Leonardo’s notebooks was found that anyone could be sure of the exact names of the disciples at the Last Supper of Leonardo’s painting. He listed them in his notes however, making it possible to identify them.
The Last Supper picture itself is a common theme from the time period, though Leonardo utilizes numerous methods that other artists did not. While he does seat his entire cast on one side of the table as others did before, he does not exclude Judas or remove him from the table altogether. He also does not utilize halos to demarcate the good disciples from the bad. Instead, he uses a much more dramatic and realistic approach that involves recessing Judas into the shadows. He also creates a subtle mechanism for having Judas reach for the bread at the same time as Jesus, as neither realizes the other is doing so. As Jesus reaches for the bread, Judas is distracted and does the very same.
The lighting of the painting all points toward Jesus along with the angles. Everything centralizes on his figure as he stretches his arms out and creates a triangle to base the rest of the painting on.
Finally, it’s been noted how many groupings of the number 3 are included in the painting, a possible reference to the Holy Trinity by Leonardo. The Apostles are seated in groups of three. There are three windows on the wall and Jesus is a triangle himself. It’s impossible to know if there were any other references because of the manner in which the painting has deteriorated over time.