The Last Supper

Juan de Juanes 1523 – 1579 The Last Supper (1560)

Juan de Juanes 1523 – 1579 The Last Supper (1560)

The Last Supper. This dramatic gathering has been a source of inspiration for the visual arts. A great number of paintings depicting this Biblical meal were created by different artists at different times over the last thousand years. In various styles, these paintings depict Jesus with his disciples gathered around the table for their last meal.

Ugolino da Siena (Ugolino di Nerio) (Italian, Siena) ca. 1325–30

Ugolino da Siena (Ugolino di Nerio) (Italian, Siena) ca. 1325–30

Needles to say, these paintings were examined, analysed and studied in the smallest details. Nothing, it seems, escaped the attention of myriads of art critics. However…

The-Last-Supper

Duccio di Buoninsegna. The Last Supper (1311)

Duccio-di-Buoninsegna-La-Maesta.-Aparici-n-en-la-cena-de-los-Ap-stoles

Duccio di Buoninsegna. The Last Supper (1311)

Scientists, brothers Brian Wansink from Cornell University and Craig Wansink from Virginia Wesleyan College, teamed up to analyze something else entirely. The subject of their studies was the amount of food depicted in 52 of the best-known paintings of the Last Supper of the last millennium.
The paintings were scrutinized for content of the meals and coded to determine changes in kinds of food and size of portions over time as depicted in paintings by great masters of the past. The sizes of the loaves of bread, main dishes, and plates were compared to the average size of the heads shown in the paintings. A CAD-CAM program was used to allow sections of the paintings to be scanned, rotated, and calculated with more precision.
As was expected, the size of food in these paintings linearly increased with time. The largest Last Supper was the most recent, according to Wansink’s analysis.

From 1000AD to the present, the ratio of the main course entrée, size of the bread, and size of the plate have increased by 69.2%, 23.1%, and 65.5%, respectively.

The_Last_Supper_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger-1524

Hans Holbein (Junior). The Last Supper (1524)

Daniele_Crespi_-_The_Last_Supper_-_1624

Daniel Crespi. The Last Supper (1624)

Crespi’s Last Supper is a real feast with abundance of food on humongous serving platters. Psychologists believe that this increase is associated with the development of agriculture, expansion of the range of products and their increasing availability. In all likelihood, the artist  was trying to portray the ideal feast according to the standards of the time. Today, though, we have surpassed them all. Our festive dinners  would be the envy of any king of the Middle Ages.

The Last Supper, ca. 1520, Andrea di Bartoli Solario, after Leonardo da Vinci, oil on canvas, currently in the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, Tongerlo Abbey.

The Last Supper, ca. 1520, Andrea di Bartoli Solario, after Leonardo da Vinci, oil on canvas, currently in the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, Tongerlo Abbey.

On the most famous version of the Last Supper, Leonardo’s (1494-1498) scientists have noticed eel, served with slices of orange on the menu. This is fundamentally different from earlier works with a rather modest offering of food on the table — like in the work of Duccio di Buoninsegna.

The Last Supper Restored, Leonardo Da Vinic

Leonardo da Vinci. The Last Supper

Paper: (available by clicking Wansink, B. and C. S. Wansink. (2010). The largest Last Supper: depictions of food portions and plate size increased over the millennium. International Journal of Obesity 34, 943–944.
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