The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan, April 10–18, 2017 (Hebrew year 5777).
Happy Passover to those who celebrate. !חג פסח שמח
For Jews around the world, the Pesach Seder is an excellent occasion to gather at a large table, eat, drink and recall the exodus from Egypt.
For the great painters of the Renaissance, the ritual served as an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
Here is how Leonardo da Vinci painted the Seder of 13 Nisan 3793 on the wall of the refectory of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. The painting dates from 1495-1498:
Below is the engraving of Albrecht Dürer, created in 1523, from collection of the New York Metropolitan Museum. St John is easily recognized here not only by the absence of a beard, but also by his place at the festive table. It is unclear, though, where the Jesus’s favorite pupil hid his legs. Judas is conspicuously absent, perhaps not to spoil the festive mood.Still below, is the amusing painting of Paolo Veronese “The Feast in the House of Levi”. Originally it was also called “The Last Supper”, but it had to be renamed after the intervention of the Inquisition, accusing the artist of an unfaithful depiction of the event. Veronese’s Last Supper is different from the canonical description by the evangelists. The Seder begins after the stars come out, however Veronese’s Seder feast takes place in the light of the day. The main objection, though, was the “composition” of the participants — too many people that shouldn’t have been in the presence of Jesus at His Last Supper. The problem went away when the feast has been moved to the “house of Levi”. The canvas of epic proportions (one and a half times larger than Leonardo’s fresco) occupies the entire wall of the Venetian Academy:
The famous canvas of Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti), created in Venice almost 100 years after the masterpiece of Leonardo. The painting is exhibited in the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore on the island of the same name. In the best baroque traditions, it depicts Jesus and his disciples at the festive table in the 16th century Venetian trattoria. Curiously, the mighty Inquisition had no problem with Tintoretto who placed a number of extraneous persons onto the canvas. Perhaps, it was because the supper takes place with the stars out?
“The Last Supper” by the Russian artist Nikolai Ge below was presented to the public in the fall of 1863 in the Academy of Arts of St. Petersburg. Church censorship tried to ban it and demanded its removal from the exhibition. The day was saved by Tsar Alexander II intervention. The royal mecenat bought the painting from the artist. Grudgingly, the clerics had to forget about their claims for a while (although the synodal ban on the publication of reproductions in Russia persisted until the February Revolution of 1917).It should be noted that of the five masterpieces above, only Nikolai Ge’s correctly reflected the ritual of the Last Supper: Passover, the exodus of Jews from Egyptian bondage should be celebrated reclining (מסובין) rather than sitting on the chairs around the table. Accordingly, Jesus’s beloved disciple shouldn’t be depicted sitting on the Teacher’s lap as portrayed by Durer, but rather reclined beside Him.