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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

Everyone is familiar with Da Vinci's Last Supper, but actually many other famous artists have also taken this theme into their work. His version was created in 1568, whilst in his late twenties and it can now be found at the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna in Italy.

The artist worked with a more traditional style in this part of his career. His paintings were also smaller too, with Last Supper being sized at 43 cm × 52 cm. The scene in front of us here features the key figures from the Christian tale around the table, which is covered in a delightful bright white cloth. There is relatively little food or drink on the table, and the figures themselves are in deep conversation. A green cloth hangs from the ceiling, whilst elements of the room are added immediately behind the table. Christ is represented in the middle of the painting and has a small halo which emerges from in front of a hanging cloth to provide contrast and allow it to stand out more. The angles of the room seem awkward, lacking quite the same flair and technical expertise that we would see later in El Greco's career. His roots in Venetian art are underlined by the tones of red and pink found on the clothing of a number of the figures within this scene.

El Greco would use architecture regularly in the early part of his career, but normally from outdoor settings, with classical structures which enhanced his work. Indoor scenes such as this were rarer and as technically well constructed as the piece maybe, it seems to lack some of the brilliance that the artist would start to show in the next few decades. He may still have been finding his way at this point and took in a variety of influences which he took time to fuse into a consistent, balanced approach. He would eventually manage it, however, and had to build a large studio in order to keep up with the large amount of commissions which were requested once he had settled in Spain. It is possible that the item in front of us here was intended as a personal piece for someone to hang within their own home, hence the relatively small size.

The Last Supper is one of the most famous scenes within European art thanks to the impact made by Da Vinci's version. Other interpretations from around that period and just after have given us an insight into how artists would take on the same challenge differently, both in terms of style but also in how they composed each artwork. El Greco here chooses a rectangular table in which figures are placed all around, some of whom with their backs to us which was a style used within the Mannerist movement. There are also some interesting touches of detail with the oranate chairs and also the tiled flooring. The Last Supper feels very Italian in style, and El Greco worked in this manner for a good period before he relocated to Spain in order to take on a large series of commissioned paintings.

Last Supper in Detail El Greco