Saint Petersburg Academy of Arts, Russia
The article examines major milestones of formation of iconography of The Last Supper (from early Christian catacombs to the 20th century) and defines its main types.
At the same time, the work provides analysis of texts of the same era which reveal the attitude towards the God-man and man, man’s place in the world. (The Oration on the Dignity of Man by Pico della Mirandola with its attention to the anthropocentrism of the Renaissance, The Pensées by Blaise Pascal, and others.)
Major ideas of different cultural movements of that specific epoch are revealed by means of comparison of words and images. The article discusses how ideas from the texts of that time manifested themselves in painting on the major subject for the European tradition of that time.
The early depictions of The Last Supper (paintings of early Christian catacombs, The Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna) illustrate the statement of the Apostle Paul — “The Church is the Body of Christ”.
In Byzantine mosaics, such as Communion of the Apostles, and in the ancient Russian icon — “The Last Supper” the perfection of forms is intended to indicate the imperishable beauty of hereafter.
Special attention is paid to artists of the Renaissance from Ghirlandaio to Tintoretto, and their connection with the idea of the Renaissance individualism and anthropocentrism.
Dali’s work The Last Supper is an attempt (alas, it is too human) to look over the edge of the Resurrection and the Hereafter.
Thus, the most fruitful period for the development of the iconography of the Last Supper is the period of the 11th–15th centuries in the regions of Byzantium and Ancient Rus. (In this epoch paintings remain in line with content of Christian ontology and anthropology).