The Last Supper: Why The Prediction Of Betrayal?

2406 words - 10 pages

The Last Supper was painted circa 1495 by Leonardo Da Vinci, and commissioned under Ludovico Sforza for the Dominicans of Santa Maria delle Grazie. From the beginning, the painting was considered a masterpiece and therefore, Leonardo was praised time and again for the technical aspects of his masterpiece. Vasari, the first man to write a book of artists' biographies, exclaimed, "a Last Supper, a most beautiful and marvelous thing; and to the heads of the Apostles he gave such majesty and beauty, that he left the head of Christ unfinished, not believing that he was able to give it that divine air which is essential to the image of Christ." Vasari, like most was entranced by the beauty of Leonardo's technique. Even today, most of the books devoted to the Last Supper focus mainly on its technical aspects.

The Last Supper is one of the most sacred events of Christian History. According to the bible, it is the last gathering that Christ and his apostles shared before he was crucified. Most depictions of this time period focused on the moment of the beginning of the Eucharist; the moment when Jesus gives up his body and blood to the apostles and mankind. However, Da Vinci's Last Supper was the first to portray the moment right after Jesus predicts that one of his apostles will betray him. Why the moment of betrayal? Why was this one different? In order to begin to answer this question, one must first look at three subjects; the Dominicans of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the Sforza family; their involvement with the Dominicans and the story of Judas' betrayal and how it is portrayed in the painting. These subjects may hold the keys to answering the question; why did Leonardo Da Vinci decide to stray from the normal depictions of the Last Supper and focus on the moment right after Christ predicts that one of the apostles will betray him?

The Dominicans were part of a religious order known as the Mendicants. The Mendicants were officially founded in 1209 and the Dominicans were established shortly after that in 1216. Like all Mendicants, the Dominicans took vows of poverty. This meant that they renounced all personal and communal property. In other words, they were not allowed to own any property and were completely dependant upon the generosity of others. The Dominicans dedicated their lives to imitating the work of Jesus Christ and the apostles. The Dominicans were also among the first (after Jesus Christ) to literally bring Jesus to the people. Instead of secluding themselves like many other sects, the Dominican friars would walk the streets among all the common people and provide them with the piety that was needed for salvation. Converting and fighting against heretics was an important mission for the Dominicans. They strived to educate many Jews and Muslims about the teachings of Jesus Christ. Their motto was "To contemplate and give others the fruit of contemplation" (Dictionary of the Middle Ages, 243). In order to educate others, one must...

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