In addition to Christ being the center of the composition, he is also the center of psychology here. The scene we are viewing comes from the Gospel accounts on the night before Christ’s Passion and Death when Christ and the apostles are together in a room for supper. More exactly, we are witnessing them at a point in the narrative after which Christ has made a great revelation to the apostles: one of them will betray Christ (“One of you is about to betray me”, Matthew 26:21 ). He is, of course, referring to Judas, but at this point there is commotion as all the apostles question who the betrayer really is. Although the Last Supper had been depicted in art many times before, this particular moment in the story is one which had not been depicted. This dramatic moment opens a door for Leonardo to explore the psychological reactions of the figures involved. We can see this in the various apostles, who are linked by their hand movements. Emotions range from protest to sadness to acceptance Judas, however, is shadowed, so that we only see part of his face while he clutches the money bag containing silver pieces. Judas was normally arranged across the table from the other apostles in Last Supper depictions, but here he is depicted in the same grouping as John and Peter. All of these figures would go on to play prominent roles in the Passion of Christ (Judas in the betrayal, Peter with his denials, and John who remains with Christ at the cross).Leonardo’s Last Supper is a type of painting which builds on the early Renaissance painting traditions in areas such as composition and perspective. Yet, it is innovative in terms of its study of emotional reactions and psychological states, all captured in a type of naturalism which was unknown in Italian painting in the previous century. It is thus with Leonardo that we see the beginning of the climactic years of the Renaissance when virtuosity was at its peak, when original ways of depicting figures or scenes came full force, and when the course of European art began to change as we know it. This was the beginning of the High Renaissance.
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