Symbolism and interpretation
SYMBOLISM AND INTERPRETATION OF THE LAST SUPPER.
Tragedy takes place here,as much in substance as in form.The Last Supper,Christ’s last meal is here treated in an unexpected way.As a matter of fact,if this scene or its representation have often been treated,and long before Da Vinci,the point of view of the different apostles and the almost real-time evolution of their reactions have never been taken into account.Here the conscience and the intuition of each person are shown on the spot.
This historic expression of this fundamental act in the history of manhood points out a very particular symbolic,certainly because here the characters belong to our time.
Time is no more hanging as it is in other art works dealing with this theme,on the contrary it passes by as and when we observe it.The two double triptyches that accompany the central Last Supper allow to step entirely into the moment,into the minutes that pass by after Jesus has said these words to his invited disciples : « In truth,I tell you,one of you will betray me ».
Listen to the 9th symphony (scherzo movement) by Beethoven and watch The Last Supper by Damon,then you will see the proliferation of the trees,the rustling of the leaves,the bronze characters,overwhelmed by their instinct,as well as the table,set up and ornate with victuals,surrounded by guests,all staggers under the weaving drama. And yet,a kind of pleasure beyond reality takes us away,the pleasure to discover the secrets of this scene,the joy to know something more about it.
We all first consider the centring of the setting of The Last Supper,the central photo.It seems to be out of time,its space and place are not determinant.Of course there’s an indication in the characters’ clothes,but these dont hit the eye immediately,because we are worried by something else……..the abundant vegetation,dense and thick.But our attention is also caught by a glasshouse in the background,it structures what is going to happen in front of our eyes.In the foreground,a very long table with a hanging tablecloth that almost touches the grass with its folds.Christ is calm as if he was waiting,or even more,as if he was watching the reactions of his disciples.
The setting is luxuriant,the flora inundates everything and yet the characters are there, charismatic;in tragedy,there’s first the human being and its numerous weaknesses.
From now on it’s indispensable to stay far enough away from the work,we have to take our time to estimate the whole.Then it’s useful to get closer to the first act of the double triptych.Act 1 : Barthelemy’s point of view or should I say we are Barthelemy, the apostle on the extreme left of the table.He represents the reason,he’s the one who wants to know who is the traitor,the perspective shows the whole table and the first feelings appear.
The second one is that of fear,Jack the minor is familiar with the authorities world and fears its reaction,already we see the beginning of changes on the different faces.
Andrew stands for innocence,he immediatly wants to let the others know that he is for nothing in all this,holding his hands up high to underline this fact.Their eyes meet and question each other.
Comes Judas,he hides a burse that Damon only slightly shows in his work,we have to search it between the characters and the objects displayed on the table.
Judas shows a face well known by liturgy,his slight smile says a lot about the last hours before this last meal,he seems to be the only one not to be indignated.At this precise moment we concretely feel that he’s unaware of his coming suicide.
And then,there’s Peter.Peter who whispers his opinion to John,taking care not to be heard by the others,or perhaps he wants to ease John‘s mind.He is the carefulness.
The next one is John or Maria Magdalena,here also the question is unanswered. Whatever,the character seems to be sad,resignated,listening to Peter’s words.
We are in the middle of the table,Christ’s power is undisputable,he’s full of majesty; he’s waiting for his fate,calm,knowing that what he is going to bring to those who believe in him will keep them safe from all tragedies,for them he’s going to suffer the worst.His face is nacreous,determined,prepared for the offenses.
At this moment San Damon introduces a thirteenth character,Matthew,who will replace Judas after the latter will have hanged himself on the day following this meal.And above all he will be the only apostle to attend the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.Matthew leans forward to whisper something to Christ,we can assume that he assures him of his support,that he tries to know,if the doubt still exists,who is the traitor.
And for a good reason,it’s from this seventh photo on that the other scenes are shown from his point of view,more intimate,near to confidence.the emotions change and the faces get troubled as and when we move forward between the disciples.
Matthew turns first on his right,the looks have changed once again,three faces are shown in a close-up.Thomas the incredulous,who moves forward putting his accusing hand up against such a sentence,he is the doubtful apostle,who asks for evidence for what he has just heard.
Jack the major,sitting just beside Jesus,seems willing to hold him back.He is the one who thinks it might be possible,he wants the others to let Christ speak,he wants to know more.
Standing behind them there’s Philip who refuses to be seen as the traitor.
Matthew turns on his right and,as in a close shot,looks at the six first apostles’ faces. Some of them are already blurred,as if excluded out of the debate.May be the implicit idea that the felon is among them.
After this and till the last scenes,Matthew interferes with the disciples,the uncommon angles allow to better perceive the feelings of each of them.
Matthew who claims : « Do you hear this ? »,indignated that a traitor lives among them.
Simon : « I dont understand that such a thing can be thought of ».
Thaddee is talking and seems to ask Simon for advice.
The conscious derangement makes us take into account the different personalities of the witnesses of this last meal.And it’s undeniable that here are represented the different aspects and contradictions of the human being.