has offered many interesting links with which to compare Leonardo's predilection
for painting young men in a style that we today interpret as "feminine" features. In future posts, this writer intends to suggest a different reason for Leonardo's portrayal of young men with "delicate" features (note the word "feminine" was not used).
For now, and first, a quick look at the reference that some identify the disciple/apostle to Jesus left with the "upward pointing finger as John the Baptist".
Please review Post #79830 - 06/10/05
, Topic: "How The Apostle John Was Usually Portrayed", (URL at the end of the Post).
In that example, the figure is not identified as John the Baptist but as Thomas.
John The Baptist was long dead by the time Jesus and his disciple/apostles met for this final time. Accordingly, Leonardo did not paint John The Baptist into the scene.
We are all aware from Dan Brown's novel of the emphasis the character Teabing puts on the appearance of the disciple/apostle to Jesus' immediate right and the interpretation he places on the " V "
space in between them - echoed in this thought:
"It must mean something."
With respect, this thought can have the unintended consequence of giving impetus to find and apply a meaning that Leonardo himself never intended. Even in the novel, the phenomenon of Scotoma
is applied in the discussion that Sophie Neveu "saw" a male figure because of her pre-conceived notion the painting was of twelve male apostles. As was argued in the novel/movie, the brain excludes consideration of what the eye is seeing because of what it wants or expects
To "make" the " V " become
something beyond a simple interval of space between Jesus and the youthful disciple to his right - is to run the very real risk of exercising the principle of "seeing what the mind wants to believe". To be sure, this writer knows PDM to be a careful reader and researcher but the unintended consequences of "It must mean something" must be carefully guarded against to prevent any tendency to develop and apply "meaning" where such meaning was not intended by the originating artist.
If Leonardo intended to portray Jesus and Mary Magdalene as a "couple" in "The Last Supper" - where are other examples
of this supposed belief of his expressed in other paintings, sculpture, or drawings? Nothing of the sort exists.
Next, let us be clear on the body posture and positioning of the figure in question. Many looking for a reason to "see" some hidden meaning in the space to Jesus' right believe Leonardo deliberately painted the figure in such a way to create a " V "
shaped space by leaning away from him.
This writer counters - that Leonardo was depicting exactly
the moment he was intending - and it wasn't to create a " V " shaped space to represent the female womb
What Leonardo did, was to paint a specifically described event that involved one and only one of the those present:
"The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking. There was reclining on Jesus' bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. So Simon Peter motioned to this man to ask Jesus about whom he was speaking. He, leaning back thus on Jesus' bosom, said to Him, "Lord, who is it?"
Now pull up a picture of "The Last Supper" and look at it
Leornado did not intend for us to interpret the figure in question as leaning away from
Jesus but leaning toward Peter
Again - look at the picture!
Leonardo depicts Peter as being in the process of asking his question
. Peter's lips are close to the inclined ear of the disciple as if to make himself heard above the elevated and animated discussions around them, his hand is on the disciple's shoulder - doing as we ourselves might do when accompanying a verbal directive - he is gesturing, pointing in Jesus' direction whom he wants the youthful Apostle to ask his question.
Everything Leonardo paints of this moment between Peter and the disciple is happening
right then, right in the midst of the room's chaos, according to Jn 13:32,33,34. This portrayal does not paint a picture of a Mary Magdalene and a "V" symbolizing the real
"chalice", the "womb", it is showing us the youthful Apostle John, the one to whom Mary later ran to announce that Jesus' body was missing from the tomb, receiving a request from the Apostle Peter to ask Jesus the identity of the one about to betray him.
Only time remaining for one or two more thoughts regarding the NT verses used by this writer to discuss the "gender" indicted of the disciple/apostle seated to Jesus' right.
Quid Pro Quo
"However, those verses have been written, re-written and interpreted.
With respect, knowing many feel that way regarding "scripture", in the interests of applying an equal standard to both, Leonardo's painting has been repaired, retouched, repainted, damaged by Napoleon's troops, partially removed - then glued back in place, been declared "unrecognizable" several times over and in between centuries and periods of neglect. Even with the earliest copies (made on the very edge of the painting being "unrecognizable") to compare for restorative purposes, who can say with certainty employing the same standard being applied above to bible verses that nuances and delicate details have also not been altered by those with an agenda with regard to Leonardo's painting?
In either case, there is good reason to give due weight and credit to the results regarding the work on both bible texts by textual scholars ever searching for and refining biblical texts for the greatest accuracy as well as to the well intended restoration work over the centuries on Leonardo's painting.
Finally, remember the earlier point - that the disciple/apostle to Jesus' right is not leaning away
from him but toward
That fact alone provides an entirely different perspective regarding the proposed "symbolic meaning" of the "V" space between Jesus and the disciple. After all, with the disciple/apostle leaning away from Jesus
and toward Peter
to hear what he wanted to say, what else would Leonardo's have painted there if not the "V" space as a matter of pure conincidence versus the speculations of modern day da Vinci Code theorists?
Regrettably, this writer will be away for a period of time tending to a personal matter, so some absence from discussion is unavoidable.
URL to view a representation of attendees of "The Last Supper" (scroll down to reach Last Supper image): http://www.wineintro.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=79819&page=2