Saturday, April 28, 2018
Last Supper Irreverence?
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you:
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,
and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said,
“This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this,
whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup,
you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:23-29 (NIV)
The visual artist Claire Rosen creates fantastical feasts using creatures, everything from turtles, honeybees, flamingos, and, yes, cobras, as the figures at the table -- 55 different tableaux in all. They are complex, and whimsical and time consuming to create. And if you're thinking Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper you don't have an over-active imagination. You might also have an uneasy feeling that to employ the imagery of a sublime work of art depicting the sacramental meal of Christians in this way is sacrilegious. I must admit I was a little rattled when I first saw them in a National Geographic piece but they challenged me to muse about how this solemn and holy meal is portrayed.
MASH movie 1970
It happens that I'm still working my way through Walter Isaacson's book on Leonardo and not long ago read his fascinating chapter on the 15th century Last Supper fresco, in the refectory, the eating area, of a convent in Milan. Isaacson has a fascinating chapter on what Da Vinci was trying to achieve in terms of perspective to draw viewers in to the drama of what is one of the most recognized paintings in the world. It is almost certain that the Passover meal Jesus shared with his disciples the night before his crucifixion would not have been eaten in this configuration, or even at a table as we know it. Yet this image is fixed in our psyches and has been coopted in many settings, often irreverently.
This Hour Has Twenty-Two Minutes
Rosen's remarkable tableaux got me thinking about all the ways I've seen The Last Supper through the years. I recall being quite offended by the sketch on This Hour Has Twenty-Two Minutes years ago. It occurred to me that this Canadian comedy show would not have taken similar liberties with other religions. Even the Simpsons got in on the act, using Moe's Tavern as the setting. Doh!
Still, even when pushing the boundaries of taste and respect, there is a degree of homage in these take-offs. And perhaps mockery can be a form of flattery? The novel The Da Vinci Code had a certain blasphemous tone to it's premise as well, yet it piqued the interest of millions.
Certainly, Jesus was scorned and humiliated in the hours following the final meal with his followers. Honestly, the crass commercialization of first Christmas and now Easter is far more disturbing for me.
What's your take on Rosen's depictions? (Google more) What about the other uses or misuses of the imagery?