PICTURES OF THE BIBLE  © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008






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The Last Supper; DUCCIO di Buoninsegna; 1308-11, tempera on wood panel; Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena, Italy

Web Gallery of Art


Banquets : The Last Supper





Jesus is at table and has a meal with his twelve apostles. They are in a large room, sitting on both sides of a rectangular table. The evening supper, called “cena” in Latin, is the main meal of the day.

On the table can be found bread, wine and a grilled lamb that shows it is the Jewish Passover meal.

It is the most important meal in the Gospels as it is there that Jesus pronounces the words “This is my body; this is my blood” while breaking bread and blessing wine.

The apostles are lined up or in threes. Those in front have no nimbus as they would otherwise conceal the table. One of the apostles, John the Evangelist, is asleep with his head against the breast of Christ. The painter wants to show the friendship between the two men; in ancient meals in which the participants are lying, putting one’s head close to the breast of another is a rather natural and easy gesture, but when the diners are sitting, John’s position becomes strange.

Judas is sitting in the foreground. Jesus designates him by giving him a mouthful of bread, which shifts the emphasis to Judas’ treason.




The positioning of 13 people around a table is difficult if all of them are to be seen.

If the table is shaped in an arc of a circle, it is the triclinium where diners are lying; Christ is then on the left at the place of honour. However if the triclinium table is kept, the characters are not lying but sitting and even standing to recall the Jewish Passover meal (the guests are standing in remembrance of the precipitate departure of the Hebrews from Egypt).

If the table is a long rectangle, which is more often the case, Christ is then in the centre, the apostles are on each side, leaving the whole length of the table empty. This is often a frontal view.

If the table is square or round, the apostles seen from the back are likely to conceal some others but, with a view from above, all of them can be seen.

Judas is sitting apart in the foreground; he wears no nimbus or the latter is black. Judas may hold a purse recalling the money he has received for his treason.

On the table can be seen bread, wine, a grilled lamb and fish, but these dishes are not to be found together. The grilled lamb indicates that it is the Jewish Passover meal. The fish is the ancient symbol of Christ as the letters of the word IXTUS, “fish” in Greek, are the initials of the phrase “Jesus Christ son of God Saviour” in Greek.



It should not be confused with


All these pictures illustrate a meal with a varying number of guests. Some details allow to recognize them and to prevent any confusion.


The Supper at Emmaus; Diego VELASQUEZ; 1620; oil on canvas; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Web Gallery of Art


This is a more intimate meal with the risen Christ and the two pilgrims at Emmaus who recognize him when he shares bread.

See the Pilgrims at Emmaus


The Loaves and the Fish; 1372; miniature of Petrus Comestor’s “Bible Historiale”; manuscript “Den Haag, MMW, 10 B 23”; Museum Meermanno Westreenianum, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague.



The apostles distribute among the crowd the loaves of bread and the fish Jesus has just multiplied to feed those who have followed him. The miracle of the Loaves and Fish is represented in different ways and can resemble a meal as in this miniature.


Christ in the House of Simon the Pharisee; Peter Paul RUBENS, circa 1618; oil on canvas transferred from wood, The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

Web Gallery of Art


Another meal but here a woman kisses the feet of a man or wipes them with her hair; it is either called “Christ at Supper with Simon”, or “The Unnamed Woman at Simon the Pharisee's”, or even “The Feast at the House of Simon”.

See The sinning Woman at Simon’s House



 The anointing of Jesus at Bethany; Julius Schnorr von CAROLSFELD;
 1851-1860 engraving from “Bibel in Bildern”.

World mission Collection



This is a festive meal with Jesus and a woman in the foreground but this time the woman is standing and is pouring some perfume on Christ’s head; it is the Unction at Bethany.


See The sinning Woman at Simon's House


The Wedding Feast at Cana; Marten de VOS; 1596-97; oil on panel; Antwerp Cathedral, Belgium.

 Web Gallery of Art


Still another banquet but stone jars are in the foreground or very visible; it is the Wedding at Cana

See the Wedding at Cana




The Last Supper; DUCCIO di Buoninsegna; 1308-11, tempera on wood panel; Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena, Italy

Web Gallery of Art


Banquets : The Last Supper

The Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 26

Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to him, Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the passover?

Now when the evening had come, he sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say to you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to him, Lord, is it I? And he answered and said, He that dips his hand with me in the dish shall betray me.

Then Judas, who betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said to him, You have said it.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine, from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. (Matthew 26:17-29)


The meal of the Last Supper is the Eucharist. This Greek word which means “giving of thanks” designates Christ’s Last Supper with his apostles.

He identifies the bread and the wine as his body and his blood and he proclaims that his blood is the blood of the New Covenant between God and men until the end of time.

This is the Eucharistic meal that Christians celebrate and share. The different churches give various meanings to this celebration and meal but for them all, it is a sign of active participation to the Christian community.





Banquets: The Last Supper




The Last Supper; DUCCIO di Buoninsegna; 1308-11, tempera on wood panel; Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena, Italy

Web Gallery of Art


Leonardo da Vinci has created a model with a long table in the foreground and the apostles in small groups; this model will have a long heritage. The disciple on the left of Christ is John the Evangelist painted with a feminine face to indicate his youth.


The Last Supper, Leonardo da VINCI; 1498; fresco; Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.

 ArtOnLine (italien)



The Last Supper; Andrea del SARTO; 1520-1525; fresco; Cenacolo of San Salvi, monastery of San Michele in San Salvi, Florence.

Web Gallery of Art


Pictures of the Last Supper are numerous and often contrasting, with open or closed space, reduced or enlarged scenes and various representations of Christ, Judas and John the Evangelist.


The Last Supper; Domenico GHIRLANDAIO; 1480; fresco, Cenacolo of Ognissanti, Florence.

Web Gallery of Art



The Last Supper, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” ; William BLAKE; 1799 tempera on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

 National Gallery Washington


Poussin recreates an ancient context with men lying around the table; Holbein gives Judas the classic anti-Semitic features of the Jew.


The Last Supper; Hans HOLBEIN; 1524-25; limewood, Kunstmuseum, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basle

Web Gallery of Art



The Eucharist; Nicolas POUSSIN; 1647; oil on canvas; National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

Olga's Gallery - Online Art Museum


Two very similar representations but on different materials; a view from above onto a square table; Judas can hardly be recognized and John the Apostle is reclining on Christ’s chest only in the wood sculpture.


The Last Supper; Dieric BOUTS; 1467; oil on canvas; Altarpiece of the Holy Sacrament, Sint-Pieterskerk, Leuven, Belgium.

Web Gallery of Art



The Last Supper; unknown master, polychrome wood; 1498-1504; High Altar, Toledo Cathedral, Spain.

Web Gallery of Art


At the Last Supper, Jesus institutes the Eucharist; hence this meal has been turned into the Catholic mass with the distribution of the communion to the apostles and the Virgin Mary added by Fra Angelico.

In Joos van Wassenhove, John has become an altar boy; Judas, relegated to the left corner, refuses communion while some spectators, contemporaries of the painter, are to be seen on the right.


The Institution of the Eucharist; Fra ANGELICO; c. 1450; fresco; Museo di San Marco, Florence.

Olga's Gallery - Online Art Museum



The Institution of the Eucharist; Joos van WASSENHOVE; 1475; oil on panel; Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino, Italy

Web Gallery of Art


These two examples are breaking the traditional composition. Tintoretto represents at the same time an inn and the communion table, while Vouet puts emphasis on a secondary scene recalling the Miracle at Cana.


The Last Supper; Simon VOUET; 1615-20; oil on canvas; Palazzo Apostolico, Loreto, Italy.

Web Gallery of Art



The Last Supper; Jacopo TINTORETTO; 1593; oil on canvas; San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice.

BramArte (Italien)


Attention, this is not the Last Supper but the Unction at Bethany

All the details of the Last Supper are present; only the presence of Mary Magdalene pouring perfume on Christ’s head allows the spectator to see the difference. The confusion is voluntary; at the Last Supper, Christ announces his imminent death and the perfume poured evokes the embalming that follows.

See  The sinning woman


The meal at Bethany; ; 1372; miniature of Petrus Comestor’s “Bible Historiale”; manuscript “Den Haag, MMW, 10 B 23”; Museum Meermanno Westreenianum, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague.









The Last Supper; DUCCIO di Buoninsegna; 1308-11, tempera on wood panel; Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena, Italy

Web Gallery of Art


Banquets : The Last Supper


The Last supper is still celebrated.

Christians commemorate Christ’s Last Supper with his apostles but they give it a slightly different meaning. It is called “mass” by Catholics, “holy supper” by Protestants and “holy sacrifice” by Orthodox Christians. It is celebrated particularly on the Thursday between Palm Sunday and Easter Day; it is called Maundy (or Holy) Thursday.

Holy Supper at Nancy Temple,France

Jesus having rendered thanks to God before consecrating bread and wine, Catholics also give the Last Supper the name of Eucharist which means” thanks” in Greek; or even the name of communion to underline the community dimension of the meal.

The early Christians used the Greek word “agape” which can be translated as “brotherly love”; this word has passed into the French language; French “agapes” designates a brotherly meal and, by extension, a feast.

A 19th-century Freemason banquet or brotherly love


Meals have taken a sacred dimension in the Occident partly because of Christ’s Last Supper.

To be together around a table, to share the same meal, to invite the stranger to one’s table are signs of communion proper to our civilisation. This supposes there are no obstacles linked to food prohibitions, or different statuses of social purity, or even segregation based on sex or age.

To be able to eat together with friends or neighbours of different races, classes or religions is an advantage that is rather rare in the world and this has been possible partly thanks to Christianity.

On the other hand, superstitious people are still apprehensive of “thirteen at table”; this number brings bad luck, an allusion to Judas who betrayed Jesus.


Bread and wine were the two food staples of the Mediterranean

 With the expansion of Christianity, they have become the typical diet in the West. To evoke the Jewish Passover, the loaves or hosts used by Christians for communion are unleavened.

The bread we eat everyday is fermented and, because of the Last Supper, it has become almost sacred. It is not thrown away; it is cut and served with great care.

    Bernard Buffet
Bread and wine  Site origine

Just as the growing of vine has extended in order to celebrate mass, so wheat bread has become the distinctive sign of Europeans and its consumption is still spreading throughout the world without any religious reference.




BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008