Thursday, February 11, 2016

Da Vinci’s painting of The Lord’s Supper—Carolyn R. Wilker

It seems such a short time ago that we celebrated Christmas, with services, turkey dinners, family gatherings and opening of gifts. What a difference between the joy of the announcement of baby Jesus and the solemnness that surrounds the opening of Lent when we are reminded what mere mortals we are, that and the imposition of ashes in the form of a cross at our Ash Wednesday service last evening.
In this season of Lent, our congregation—without a minister for the time being—is joining with two other area churches, as we have for the last several years, for a Lenten supper followed by a service in the hosting church. The three congregations take turns hosting and providing the supper, and the pastor of the only congregation with a minister is organizing the services.
 The pastor giving the sermon shared a story of Leonardo da Vinci creating the famous painting of the Last Supper, of Jesus with his disciples. Perhaps most disciples were easy enough to paint. Da Vinci could look around and sketch almost anyone in the marketplace, but according to the story, he looked for a model who exemplified Jesus’s character and found a young man with striking appearance who seemed to fit best. He hired the man to sit in his studio and painted him.
As referenced in an online biography, Leonardo took over two years to find the right character to paint as Judas, where he apparently found his models in the marketplace.
I had to make sure I heard it right, and so on returning home, and again this morning, I searched the story on Google. Here’s where it gets interesting. The version being referenced on the Snopes site gave the ‘Judas character’ a name (as we do in fiction). In this version, different from what I read on the Internet last evening, it seems that Da Vinci chose a man who was in prison and that the prisoner was released. How many versions are there of this story? I have to wonder.
 Snopes, a site on the Internet that sets out the truth on false stories, claims that story is false and a Christian allegory (a fictional story with a symbolic message), and that a person writing the story would not have had the historical context in this much detail. Also there are no apparent records of models he would have used
 That response is similar, but not identical, to one on the Truth or Fiction site, that references biographer, Robert Wallace, who said that “there are no accounts of a prisoner being brought from Rome for the sittings.”
It’s an interesting juxtaposition of character and stories. Did the pastor knowingly choose the allegory to make a point? I don’t know that. Yet I think there’s a lesson for us, besides knowing what is truth and what is not. The allegory shows how easily a person can fall away from knowing God—unless he asks for daily help and direction, and acknowledges his sin.
That’s what the Lenten season is all about—knowing our position as sinful beings and believing that God sent his son Jesus to die for all our sins. Not a pretty picture, but then Easter follows with the resurrection.


Peter Black said...

Carolyn, that's an interesting story; interesting too, that there's possibly little substance to it, in its variations. Yet, as you say, there are lessons to be learned. Thank You. I appreciate Lent. May and I get to as many of the inter-church Lenten services in our community as we can. We had a fine start yesterday. ~~+~~

Rose McCormick Brandon said...

Carolyn, I've heard that story too and just assumed it was true. It sounds good . . . like so many things. Truth is always freeing somehow.

Glynis said...

I have often wondered where Snopes get their information. ;)
Very interesting story about the painting. But Snopes is likely correct about the historical accuracy. Hmmm. We do want to get it right when we tell our stories! Nice post.

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