The Last Supper

The Italian painter, Tintoretto was a representative of a Mannerism style even though he used to live in the era of the High Renaissance prosperity. Energetic movements of painting, bold brushwork, and dynamic expression of figures are striking features of his artistic style. The most well-known painting of Tintoretto, The Last Supper  has many different art elements that make the holy scene from the Bible closer to the ordinary life.

The painting seems to be obscure because of a dominance of dark colors (background). In order to draw viewers’ attention to specific parts of the scene, the artist used chiaroscuro effect.   The contrast in the painting greatly influences this mysterious work of art. Jesus stands out from everyone else in the painting because his clothes are brightly lit. Jesus Christ’s figure is literally glowing from within. It can relate to the spiritual symbolism of the event portrayed. Generally, the painting has two light sources. In the upper-left part, there is a lantern with dancing flames illuminating angels floating all over the ceiling in a divine emanation. The second source is coming from the Christ’s halo. It seems to be stronger as one may notice the shadow of Christ’s head on the woman in the foreground of the picture.

Similarly to the artwork of that period, The Last Supper has a vivid linear perspective. Tintoretto used several lines (the lines of light, the lines in the ceiling and the floor of the room)  to connect all parts of this painting together (Art and the Bible).  The most attention is drawn to a surprisingly diagonal table (not a horizontal and symmetrical as in Da Vinci’s Last Supper). It communicates the depth and drama of the whole scene as the lines of the table move viewers with the incredible speed to the vanishing point in the upper right corner that seems to dissolve because of value of color (the artist made this part dark without any vivid features).  The floor  patterns and ceiling (wood frames) along with the action of the people and angels create a dynamic action directed towards the upper-right part of the painting (dark space) highlighting harmony and rhythm in the painting.  In addition,  the decreasing size of the people and the table contributes to the effect of the depth. Similarly, the ceiling is partially visible in the part where the scene is illuminated by the lantern. All these lines and perspectives create an effect of depth and dynamism of the painting.

With the help of saturation and vibrant hues of blue and red, Tintoretto achieved the effect of emphasis on particular parts. Thus, the figure of Christ is saturated and the most striking in the picture.

Regarding the foreground of the painting, the artist devoted much space and attention to the anecdotal details. There are a figure of woman serving food, several apostles leaning towards each other to talk (probably after Christ’s words ‘this is my blood and this is mo body’ while offering bread to others), a cat looking into the basket with food. Such combination of trivial actions and spiritually important event make this scene more real more human than divine (“Tintoretto, Last Supper”). It shows a bold action of Tintoretto as an artist to depict things differently. It meant the crack of different times, the beginning of the era of exploration.

The Last Supper is a magnificent artwork that reaches vibrance and dynamism due to skillful manner of the artist to employ contrast, color, linear perspective and other art elements. A lively and chaotic holy scene  corresponds the features of Mannerism. The blinding light of Christ’s halo distinguishes him and draws viewers’ attention to the divine composition.