You don’t have to be an art expert to be able to easily recognize Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous fresco painting, The Last Supper. Painted somewhere between 1495 and 1498, Da Vinci’s depiction of the bible scene of Jesus Christ sitting down for supper with his disciples is so iconic that there are many artists who have used the imagery from The Last Supper in their own works. Here are four artworks that contain themes from Leonardo’s The Last Supper.
1. MADSAKI: The Last Supper (The Big C) II (inspired by Andy Warhol)
The first artwork on our list shows a contemporary take on Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Da Vinci’s painting is famous for its imagery depicting the final supper between Jesus Christ and his disciples before he was crucified. Da Vinci’s painting had all the elements of a classic Renaissance painting, seen in the hazy colors and the use of perspective of the work. This was a common technique used in Renaissance art known as aerial perspective, where the artist used color, especially dull ones, to illustrate distance and range in a painting.
It was during the Renaissance era that artists started to use the golden ratio within their own work, and Da Vinci’s The Last Supper is a great example of this. The method known as the golden ratio is a special type of number used in artworks to ensure that the proportions are correct. Da Vinci’s placement of the central table, Christ in the center, and the disciples on the sides are what makes the painting so visually appealing.
MADSAKI’s take on the famous painting is very different, and yet it still contains themes from Leonardo’s The Last Supper. MADSAKI is a contemporary Japanese artist who was born in Osaka and later moved to America. One of MADSAKI’s goals as an artist is to recreate and reinterpret Art History. His artwork, The Last Supper (The Big C) II (inspired by Andy Warhol), is his take on pop artist Andy Warhol’s interpretation of Da Vinci’s painting.
Get the latest articles delivered to your inboxSign up to our Free Weekly Newsletter
Using spray paint, MADSAKI has changed The Last Supper but managed to keep some of the same themes seen in the original work as well. For example, in MADSAKI’s work, the figure of Jesus Christ and his disciples is seen in the background. In fact, lines of the classic table can be seen poking out from behind the motorcycles. Renaissance art, especially Da Vinci’s, focused on depicting real-life human emotions, and MADASKI captured that in his work as well. Although, MADASKI’s choice of emotions doesn’t seem so serious, since there’s a smile on Christ’s face.
2. Vincent Van Gogh: Cafe Terrace at Night
Compared to Tintoretto’s painting, Vincent van Gogh’s Cafe Terrace at Night may seem like an unlikely example, but it is. At first glance, it doesn’t look like it contains themes from the last supper, but when one begins to look closely, one can see some uncanny resemblances.
Although Van Gogh himself never explicitly mentioned if this was done intentionally, it’s still rather interesting. The focal point of Van Gogh’s painting is the terrace with the tables and figures placed underneath the bright yellow roof. Those tables and figures are similar to Da Vinci’s Last Supper.
This can be seen in the row of figures sitting towards the left of the painting, and in the center of the rows of tables is the waiter wearing white. Looking carefully at the figures, it’s possible to count 12 figures, this is the exact number of figures in Da Vinci’s painting, and in the Bible, there were 12 disciples of Jesus Christ. The waiter can be compared to the Christ figure in Da Vinci’s painting. In fact, the outfit he’s wearing looks a bit like a robe, like those worn during biblical times.
More religious imagery can be identified in the painting. For example, behind the waiter’s head is a window with a cross in it, which is similar to the cross to which Jesus Christ was nailed the day after the last supper. If this visual evidence is not enough, the meaning behind the painting does support this line of reasoning. Many Van Gogh fans can easily identify one of his paintings right off the bat. This is thanks to the recurring stars’ imagery.
According to a letter that Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, he explained that stargazing had become his favorite thing to do since he had found religion. While Cafe Terrace at Night is not an overtly religious artwork, the resemblance to The Last Supper and the religious backstory does lend itself to be considered somewhat in the realm of religious paintings.
3. Zeng Fanzhi: The Last Supper (2001)
Zeng Fanzhi’s controversial and contemporary oil painting The Last Supper, is an example of artwork that contains themes from Da Vinci’s painting of the same scene. While Fanzhi’s painting is similar to Da Vinci’s, there is a stark difference between the two artworks.
Instead of 12 disciples sitting at the table, Fanzhi painted 12 figures wearing masks who were supposed to represent communists. The overall theme of Fanzhi’s painting is China’s economy. For example, Fanzhi’s Last Supper is supposed to represent the West’s (America) hold over the Chinese economy.
This is a reference to the liberalization period in China during the 1980s. At the time, the communist party in China was heavily criticized during what was known as the Cultural Revolution. Fanzhi’s painting plays with the idea of betrayal by using the iconic imagery of Da Vinci’s Last Supper. The overall theme of Da Vinci’s Last Supper is betrayal, as it references the bible story of Judas betraying Jesus and Pontius Pilate sentencing Christ. Fanzhi’s painting has done the same, and he has even gone as far as to highlight Judas in the painting. He can be seen in the figure wearing a yellow necktie.
Fanzhi copied the exact same layout seen in Da Vinci’s painting and kept Judas as the fourth figure to the left with someone standing behind him. The communists’ treatment of Chinese traditions and prevention of the growth of China’s economy can be considered as a betrayal to the people. The communist members are represented as Judas. Zeng Fanzhi’s take on The Last Supper is a great example of how regardless of how much technology changes and society advances, betrayal is ever present.
4. Themes From Leonardo’s The Last Supper in Yinka Shonibare’s Work
The final artwork on this list is Nigerian artist Yink Shonibare’s installation piece called Scramble for Africa (2003). This artwork was commissioned by the Museum of African Art in New York City. It was made as a response to the expansion of the British into Africa during the early 1880s.
When one thinks about Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, Shonibare’s installation piece is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. However, there are elements and themes in Shonibare’s work that are similar to Da Vinci’s work. The most obvious reference is the 14 headless figures that are seated around the table. While the composition is different from Da Vinci’s, it is still very similar. When you compare the movements of the figures, the raised arms, pointing fingers, and the way the figures are leaning across each other, the scene seems very similar to Da Vinci’s.
Shonibare’s work has also managed to capture the mood of Da Vinci’s painting as well. For example, in Da Vinci’s work, there is a feeling of apprehension in the air, and one can almost hear the noise from the dinner table. The pointed fingers, the gesturing, and the way the figures in Da Vinci’s are leaning over each other give the feeling of chaos as they are all fighting to have their voices heard.
While Da Vinci’s work contained themes of betrayal, Shonibare’s installation piece differs slightly by focusing on the theme of politics. Within Scramble for Africa, Shonibare depicts the historical event known as the Berlin Conference of 1884-85. In this installation piece, the viewer can see the various heads of state fighting over the land of Africa.
Shonibare’s artwork differs from the rest of the examples. While Tintoretto set his painting in a darker setting, Van Gogh’s painting was set in a cafe, and in Fanzhi’s painting, the figures are wearing masks, and Shonibare’s figures are headless. According to the artist himself, this was done in order to represent the leaders’ mindless hunger for a piece of Africa. Shonibare’s installation piece on African politics is an example of how the artworks can contain even the subtlest themes from Leonardo’s painting The Last Supper.