Historical Art: How does it relate to you?



So you’re probably wondering why someone would choose to write about such an old (and boring) piece of art, especially one that is already so well known. Not to mention in an art class where most people are excited about modern art and street art. There are several reasons I chose this historical masterpiece; I’ll do my best to explain.

My main reason is a personal connection with this piece. Because I am a printer I had the opportunity a few years ago to print a rendering of this painting (I will bring a copy to class when I talk about this blog). When I printed it I can remember the feeling that I had to make sure everything was just right, because it was such an important historical piece. Another connection is that as a Christian the piece holds significance as the representation of a major event. Many interpretations of this painting exist such as those presented in the Da Vinci code, etc. For me the simple call for inner contemplation about being true to your beliefs as a result of Christ’s statement at the last supper that one of His followers would betray Him is the important takeaway or interpretation. Of course the institution of communion as a tradition/sacrament took place at the last supper as well, which is significant because it is practiced by all Christian religions.

On a lighter note I’d like to talk about how historical art such as Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper relates to our modern world and understanding. Famous pieces such as this one are often used in movies and video games as well as in everyday conversation. Knowledge of historical art can be important for context, so you know, for example, if someone tells you you’re painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa you know you’re severely butchering the presentation of something. It’s also helpful to better understand how culture has developed over time, so you can have a more complete perspective of current art and society.

Sometimes historical art can be used in a satirical manner. One of my favorites is Jon Stewart’s (host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show) use of the Last Supper painting in a comedy skit discussing gay marriage. Watch the clip if you have time, it’s funny—anything that includes the terminology “chicken eating Judas” has to be funny right?

  • What representations of historical art can you think of in current film, video games, television, etc.?
  • How has historical art impacted modern culture and art?
  • What interpretations do you have of the Last Supper painting?

Matthew Camp


16 thoughts on “Historical Art: How does it relate to you?

  1. Very interesting post Matthew. Before the Da Vinci code came out I never really gave any thought to the painting. Before taking this class I had no idea the condition it is in or what type of process was used to create it. One of these days I will get to Italy to see this and many of the other historical pieces; meanwhile, fitting a marathon into the vacation also.

    The Jon Stewart clip was excellent. I like to hear this type of commentary and are correct that “chicken eating Judas” is very funny.

  2. I love this piece and all of the conflicting interpretations it brings up every time I teach it. I think it’s interesting that some pieces of art continue to intrigue through the ages, no matter how old or damaged the piece is.

  3. After reading your post I tried to think of places where I’ve seen different takes on this famous piece.. not really having any luck, I turned to google and found this website that shows 30 or 40 different interpretations of the work. It was interesting and kind of amusing to see how many different ways people could think to remake this piece of art.. and I’m sure there is more to be made.

  4. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so the saying goes. The Last Supper is the proverbial (pun intended) granddaddy of them all! It is one serious piece of work! It is stunning, beautiful, and, as you wrote, a masterpiece. It is significant to not only the religious but to humanity overall. I confess, though, that after looking at The Last Supper, I could not help but recall what Annie Liebovitz did with the 1999 December cover of Vanity Fair that was titled Last Supper and featured the cast of the then hit show The Sopranos. I could not help but note that Tony’s mother tales the place of Judas in that portrait. (For those who have forgotten, she did try to manipulate her brother-in-law into putting a hit on her own son!)

    Another humorous approach is Mel Brooks’ History of the World, Part 1.

    And here is one more link that provides many more examples of The Last Supper in pop culture.


    I am amazed at the impact The Last Supper has had on pop culture, not just in the past but now and likely on into the future. Perhaps a masterpiece is not truly a masterpiece until it is parodied through pop culture!

    PS, Don, check out the Lego Last Supper on Culturepopped.blogspot!

  5. I agree with you. I also think it is important to know these memorable pieces of art for context. I’m also not sure in what video games or shows any historical art is shown but I’m positive there is. This painting is also very beautiful and it truly does belong on an art blog so I appreciate the choice.

  6. Before this class, I knew of this painting but did not anything about how it was made and the condition it is in now. It’s always interesting to see historical art, mainly because it poses so many questions. Many of the artworks were created in a time that is vastly different from the world we live in now. It may include values and beliefs that were lost through time. I hope one day I am able to see this masterpiece in person.

    Thanks for sharing Matthew.

  7. I am glad you shared this piece I think it is so interesting. I grew up a Roman Catholic, and I went to a Catholic school. Therefore, for a good part of my life I knew the religious perspective-everyone’s names, why it was the Last Supper, and the events surrounding it. Then, when I saw the Da Vinci Code, it opened up alternative perspectives. I also thought it was interesting that it was a center of controversy on restoration. I think the best part of art is how many perspectives they inspire.

  8. I saw this painting a lot when I was young because it was in every Catholic Italian household we visited with our parents for dinner. To me, it brings a feeling of comfort. However, it also makes me feel conflicted because of the large gap between religion and everyday living in our generation. You don’t see thirty something’s hanging art like this in their homes anymore. Also, I think South Park made a spoof on this painting.

  9. Really interesting post. Makes you think. What will be the “historical art” 300 years from now ?
    Will there still be spoofs being done on The Last Supper? Or, will it be present day art work that takes on the historical significance? Personally, I like the humorous approach in both clips (Mel Brooks History of the World and Jon Steward Chicken Eating Judas). Very Funny. Like Christina mentioned above, it is interesting to see the different perspectives they offer.

  10. I have always liked this piece for its historical and personal value. It may be one of the most recognizable pieces (besides the Mona Lisa) which proves how influential the christian faith is in the world. To this day the Da Vinci Code is one of my favorite movies because of the interesting details and mysteries it brings to light about such an old work. That Mel Brooks clip is my favorite scene from History of the World!

  11. My response doesn’t really answer any other the questions but its interesting because this painting is so well-known, yet I’ve NEVER looked at it and seen everyones faces or actually studied the painting. its pretty wild how we tend to skip over things because they’re “common knowledge”, but we don’t really have an understanding of them.

  12. Interesting read, I have seen this the painting if the last supper many times, I have looked at it, examined it, yet I have never really taken the time to appreciate the art for what it is. I always just looked at the painting and that was about it.

  13. I couldn’t really answer any of the questions either. Although I will say that while I have known about historical pieces such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper; I never took the time to really study it. The historical pieces that I took a bit more time with was some of the sculptures and architecture of the Romans/ Greeks. There is a lot of art history there that is interesting as well.

  14. I agree with you. It is very important to have knowledge about the historical art. I believe that these paintings are classic pieces of art. Paintings like Mona Lisa, the last supper, Vitruvion man are great pieces. What I really find interesting is that how Leonardo Da Vinci’s and other artists of that time were able to create such amazing pieces with a limited variety of paints and painting instruments.

  15. I have seen this piece many time due to the fact that I am Lutheran and it is a present topic in my church, but before this class and actually talking about it I never knew about he condition of it because of the age and style. Beside maybe once besides this class I have seen this photo and have actually looked at it. As far as historical art in today’s modern world, nothing recalls my memory and that may coincide with my low interest for historical art. I think its pretty cool that you have had the opportunity to reprint this piece of historical art.

  16. I am not remembering any exact interpretations but I do kbow i have seen some in the past. This being such a famous painting makes it quite an easy target, much like the mona lisa. This piece is interesting itself because of all of the different interpretations, everyone has their own opinion.

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