Friday, October 29, 2010

The Last Supper in Grayscale

Not telling why, but I've recently had cause to collect a whole bunch of grayscale images (sketches, studies, engravings, etc.) of Jesus' Last Supper, as depicted by a variety of artists. The artists' names are embedded in the filenames of the images below. To learn a bit more about them, and to see some full-color art work on the same subject, click here.
Here the act of instituting the Eucharist is placed at the center of a swirl of activity that encompasses heavenly angels and human service.

I like the oblique angle of the point of view in this one. It combines an almost photographic realism with a symbolic contrast between the varying levels of darkness emanating from the disciples' figures (especially Judas, foreground left) and the light that seems to glow off of Jesus.

This one is noteworthy for depicting the ancient near-eastern custom of "reclining at table." It freezes Judas in the act of dipping his bread in the bowl with Jesus.

More of the same. I gather that Weigel did illustrations for an edition of the Bible. He must have created a separate engraving for each of the three Synoptic accounts of the Last Supper!

And here is the one where Weigel shows the scene head-on. Notice that a certain somebody seems impatient to leave....

Elegant in its simplicity. Jesus sits at the head of the table, a modern visual metaphor for being the host of the feast. I wish I could show you a bigger version of this, but I have no idea where Annie Vallotton's stuff is parked these days!

Leonardo does a kids' Bible story book...

Even more childish and stereotyped...

Somehow this reminds me of the head table at a wedding reception...

This looks like a cozy gathering!

In this version, some of the disciples look like little kids!

I like the ones where the disciples are sitting on all sides of a roundish table, rather than along one side of a long, rectangular one.

Here Jesus is passing the bread, as if to say: "This is My body..."

Somebody seems to be on the point of pouring out one of those big, tall jugs in a lot of these pictures. I wonder where that convention came from?

Not sure whether the lozenge-shape behind Jesus' head is a funny window or a nimbus. John is really having a fit in this one, poor guy.

Some fancy upper room, eh? I love it when there are dogs in the picture! Notice the candle in the window.

My Mom used to have this kind of table in her dining room, with long benches down both sides. Here Jesus is sitting in the midst of his disciples, not at the head of the table.

Not exactly sure what's going on here. Maybe Jesus and the boys stopped by a pool-hall after supper?

Something about this scribbly type of ink-and-paper study really takes me. This is Rembrandt after Leonardo.

This one is even more so.

There's something perilous in this picture, like the bench on the right is about to tip right over.

That guy across the table from Jesus has to feel like he's been put on the spot!

A gorgeous depiction of the reclining-at-table custom.

Another interesting, oblique point-of-view.

In this one, it looks like Jesus is actually hand-feeding his disciples.

Consider the signifance of all that vertical space above the scene. Also, study the light source and the pattern of light and shadow. Those nearest to Jesus seem to be basking in his glow, an illumination independent of the lamp suspended from above. Plus, I love that this painting has not one but two dogs!

This setting has an interesting feel about it, as of a Virginia plantation in the early years of the American republic.

The perspective in this one is kind of weird. There seems to be quite a multitude present.

Languid decadence at the Last Supper?

The cuddling between John and Jesus gets a lot of play in these woodcuts. Hmm...

No equivocation in the one, between the window and the nimbus. The table seems solidly built & the foreground details are quite interesting. The picture seems to invite you to crawl under the table, like a toddler messing around at an extended family's holiday dinner.

This one differs from the previous example as night differs from day....

Soft-focus romanticism here. Jesus appears to be teaching his disciples.

Very modern-artsy, but cool in some unexpected ways. Jesus is shorn & youthful-looking. The disciples look like a collection of real characters, several of whom have hair-loss problems.

Now this place is HUGE. I'm not even sure it's indoors!

Here's a girly Jesus who seems to have taken one too many Valiums. And is it me, or does that table look a bit off-bubble to you?

This one is dramatically awesome. I'm not quite sure what I'm seeing here. If that's Jesus in the foreground, he looks like he might be choking on something. Or maybe drawing on the floor???

A much more sedate depiction, but still in an improbably humongous space. Lots of servants. What's that coming out from under the table?

Another Jesus with a spaced-out look....

Boy, would this look nice if it were completed. Though that guy in the foreground left is showing a bit more leg than is absolutely necessary...

Jesus praying over the bread....

Jesus could be using sign-language in this picture. That dude with the jug is getting up to his tricks again!

Peter (if my guess is correct about the guy leaning in towards Jesus) looks really keen on what Jesus is saying in his consecratory prayer. Maybe he's trying to pick up a few tricks for when he's the Pope. Again, maybe it's the way the picture was cropped, or maybe it's just me, but the table doesn't look level. The guys on Jesus' right (our left) certainly look more comfortable than the guys on his left/our right.

The condition of this piece is a tragedy. I'm not just saying this because of the dog. Note the "Dr. Evil" look Judas is giving as he flees from the table.

Here's an interesting perspective, looking up the length of the table at a Jesus who seems to be receding into the ineffable distance. But really, what IS the deal with the guy and the jug in the foreground?

Jesus communicating His disciples. Not quite the "take one down and pass it around" image so many of us carry in our heads... but very churchly!

Three observations: 1) This place is ginormous! Pillars and everything! 2) Judas has a really twisted, arthritic look about him. 3) The tipped-over stool seems to signify the scandal of the cross, as good a motive as any for the bad, bad thing Judas is about to do.

Sketchy, but expressive. What catches my eye, in this case, is the figure in the foreground who seems to be swooning with emotion.

This sketch, after the same artist as the previous one, casts the disciples as the chorus in H.M.S. Pinafore: "He said damme! He said damme!"

Nice use of white on a beige background! But why does Jesus seem to be wearing a baseball cap?

This reminds me of Louis Slobodkin's Caldecott-medal-winning illustrations for James Thurber's Many Moons: squiggly, yet substantial.

I believe I cropped a good deal off the top of this one. The original had a tall arch kind of thing behind Jesus. The draperies behind the table are another common theme in this era. Jesus looks really upbeat about things, even while Judas plots his guts out. Meanwhile, the disciples are all going, "Whoa! It's not me!! How can you even SAY that?"

There's something very Worldwide Church of God about this one. The detail is totally focused on the characters. But the atmosphere is about right, don't you think?

This version of the Last Supper looks more like coffee and brandy in the parlor after supper. If Jesus doesn't hurry up, somebody might just break out a deck of cards....

1 comment:

Tim said...

Very cool. Thanks.