Leonardo’s painting called “The Last Supper” has generated much interest. The book, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, relies upon a certain interpretation of Leonardo's painting. To be sure, the storyline was creative genius to be sure a the movie based upon the book was well done, but a fundamental flaw renders the entire concept as put forth by Mr. Brown invalid.
First the premise…drawn from the painting...that Leonardo deliberately omitted painting a "goblet/cup/chalice/etc" from which Jesus and the assembled disciples shared wine. This absent vessel, it is argued by Dan Brown and now legions of “believers” was intended by Leonardo to provide future validation of the premise that the so-called "Holy Grail" is not a vessel but the descendant(s) of Jesus and Mary M.
With an imaginative eye perhaps even Leonardo himself did not have, many now see in the space between Jesus and the figure on his right a "V", deliberately painted in such a way to represent the female womb. If Leonardo intended to obscure such a “meaning” from religions eyes of his day…a meaning he hoped would be clearly understood by those of an enlightened and liberated future, one can only imagine the hint of a smile as he painted knowing how angry those commissioning the work would be at the suggestion of a symbolic womb appearing in the middle of “their” painting.
Leonardo painted this work almost fifteen hundred years after the event so what was his source of "information" about the subject of his painting? After all, he was not there and knew no one that was?
He couldn't have consulted the NT. That collection of writings clearly state (at for example Luke 22:16-17) that (a) there was a "cup" and (b) out of that single container a drink of the wine therein was shared by all those assembled (except Judas I. who had departed).
Secondly, the picture portrays a "glass" with a liquid (presumably wine) near each of those seated at the table. While such vessels holding water or wine may have graced tables in Leonardo's time, they certainly did not in the time of Jesus.
Evidence of “hollow” glassware (vases) date from the sixteenth century B.C.E., but "glass" anything because of rarity, the absense of artisians that knew how to make it, and the resulting cost made it more likely to appear on the table of a Pharaoh not that of a carpenter, tax collector, or fisherman. Neither does the depiction of multiple “glasses” reflect the NT description of the event.
This begs the question, didn't Leonardo read his NT before commencing to paint? But then again, perhaps he couldn't properly research the matter since the Church wasn't too keen in his day on Bibles sitting around for just anyone to read.
Finally, amidst all the speculation and explanations, the appeal to scientific discovery, the X-Rays, electron Microscopes, spectrometers, etc., etc., where are the questions or observations asking why Jesus and his disciples were convened for an evening meal.
Why not? Why were they there? ?? What was so special that Jesus had planned for a long time to gather with his disciples on that night for that meal ??? Does any of that matter in relation to the issue of Leonardo's painting and the intense debate over "The Da Vinci Code" ??
The meal was to commemorate Passover !!
Why is that significant?
The Passover of Moses had two things in common with the Passover of Jesus and the last meal with his disciples (1) the "bread-of-haste" (unleavened bread) and (2) wine. That night was to commemorate the flight of the Israelites from Egypt, not to set the stage for the going forth of Jesus' seed carried by a pregnant Mary M. as the premise of Mr. Brown and those embracing this story now contend.
Given the criterion of Passover as to “why” Jesus and his disciples were gathered together to share the event, Passover with its emblems of unleavened bread and wine, its historical and religious significance, all of which Jesus and his disciples were there to observe (a matter of no small significance which both Leonardo and Mr. Brown seem to have overlooked), the single cup described by the writers of the NT (who unlike Leonardo were actually there) all of those descriptive elements leave only one conclusion possible as to what Leonardo was and was not intending to paint.
No matter how hard anyone stretches, pulls and strains to make a case for believing that Leonardo's painting (with or without its "secrets") reveals and validates a fanciful legend that descendants of Jesus are the real "Holy Grail" have simply been carried away by an imaginative tale created by someone other than the painter himself.
Last edited by Lisa Shea; 12/30/12 07:27 AM.