Last Supper


The last supper by Leonardo da Vinci is arguably the world’s most famous paintings of all time. Executed in between the years 1495 and 1498, the painting is still striking because of its simplicity, choice of color as well as remarkable imagination of the painter. Leonardo da Vinci carefully and artistically was able to capture the moment, showing the reactions of the twelve disciples, in line with their recorded personalities, to the news that their master had given them.

The artistic masterpiece represents Leonardo da Vinci own imagination and account of the last supper that Jesus had with his twelve disciples. The piece is more specifically focused on the exact moment after Jesus broke the news to his apostles that one of them would indeed betray him before the break of dawn. The apparent confusion among the disciples after hearing the news is evident on the painting as they seem to be conversing all at the same time, somewhat even arguing, and a clear sign of a chaotic moment. However, the artist carefully sets apart Judas. He is a bit calm in the painting and does not seem to be uneasy or rattled in the painting as is the case with his fellow disciples. Judas would later that evening sell out his master to the rulers of the present day for a few coins.

The painting was made using an inferior technique and thus explaining the deterioration of the masterpiece over time. The artist used the tempera technique. He painted on a dry layer of plaster arguably so as to bring out livelier images and sharper colors. However, due to overlooking the use of a wet layer of plaster the tempera has over time diminished due to peeling. Several attempts to restore the painting have been carried out over time.









The “Last Supper” painting was written by Rainer Maria Rilke as a reaction upon seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s painting going by the same title in 1904. The poem is the authors’ personal interpretation of da Vinci’s painting on the reaction of the twelve disciples to the news that Jesus broke to them that one of them would betray him.

The poem is written in a tone that depicts sadness. The author writes that “he feels the ancient loneliness to-day” as those who once loved him will flee before him at the moment of need. Confusion is evident in the authors’ poetic choice of words. He writes in the second stanza that the disciples “flutter round the table in fright” this is after Jesus says to them that one of them will betray him. A somber mood is evident in the poem as the disciples are afraid, sad and confused by the words of their master. The mood carries on to the end of the poem.

The poem indicates a careful choice of words on the part of the author. He uses rhymes in the first stanza as below;

That taught Him all His deepest acts of love;

Now in the olive groves He soon will rove,

The excerpt below is another example in the second stanza of the poem of the authors’ use of the rhyme poetic technique in passing his message through to the audience.

To the last supper table He hath led.

As birds are frightened from a garden-bed         

By shots, so He their hands forth from the bread

The author further employs imagery in his piece. He refers to how birds are frightened from a garden bed to paint a mental picture of the fright and confusion that engulfed the disciples. The same statement made by author is an example of a poetic simile as the author likens the disciples of Jesus to frightened birds from a garden bed.






Comparison of Painting and Poem

There are myriads of striking similarities between the painting and poem discussed in this paper. The most basic similarity is the common name the poem and painting have, as they are both referred to as the last supper. The poem and the painting are both focused on a similar subject. The subject of both is based on the Biblical event where Jesus gathered his disciples to one table for dinner and he took the opportunity to break the news to them that one of them would indeed betray him before the break of dawn.

The painter and author both made use of imagery as anyone looking at the painting or reading the poem can get a clear picture of the confusion that engulfed the evening. One can also visualize the somber and sad mood in both pieces of art. The attention to detail in both pieces of art is apparent and a clear indication that the artist and poet in both instances were professionals in their respective fields.

There are also several differences between the painting and the poem. The painting was done by Leonardo da Vinci while the poem was written by Rainer Maria Rilke. Both pieces were done in different time periods. While the poem was written in the early 1900’s, the painting was executed between 1495 and 1498. Another striking difference is the fact that the painting is deteriorating over time due to the technique employed by the artist while the poem is intact a century after the author wrote it.

In conclusion, in my opinion, the greatest difference between the painting and poem is the fact that whilst the poet made reference to the painting in coming up with his poem, Leonardo da Vinci made the painting entirely from his imagination of the last supper.


Works Cited

Freedman, Ralph. Life of a Poet: Rainer Maria Rilke. Michigan: Northwestern University Press, 1998.

Rainer Maria. “The Last Supper.”Bartbelly,1993-2015., 6th April 2015

Ludwig Heinrich Heydenreich. “The Last Supper.” Encyclopedia Britannica. EEEEEm/EBchecked/topic/336408/Leonardo-da-Vinci/59781/The-Last-Supper.Monday, 6th April 2015

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