Dali on the Last Supper

Here is surrealist Salvadore Dali’s take on the “Last Supper.” Is it orthodox?

Dali's Last Supper

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    I think it smacks of gnosticism, just like Dali's "Crucifixion (Hypercubic Body)."

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    I think it smacks of gnosticism, just like Dali's "Crucifixion (Hypercubic Body)."

  • Manxman

    The Passover was a feast to CELEBRATE the Lord's mighty power exercised on behalf of His people to free them from bondage in Egypt.

    The people gathered around the table in Dali's Last Supper look like a bunch of whipped dogs, and I don't think Jesus was anywhere near as girly and androgynous and ineffectual as Dali makes Him out to be here.

  • Manxman

    The Passover was a feast to CELEBRATE the Lord's mighty power exercised on behalf of His people to free them from bondage in Egypt.

    The people gathered around the table in Dali's Last Supper look like a bunch of whipped dogs, and I don't think Jesus was anywhere near as girly and androgynous and ineffectual as Dali makes Him out to be here.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    Manxman: I heard it said that artists paint Jesus to look like them. That is a very incarnational thought actually and deeply orthodox in a sense isn´t it? Jesus WAS the human race nailed to the cross. He was in fact, the girlie, the macho, the black the white the asian.

    I believe it was no mere happenstance that whoever sought Jesus out in a crowd always had to ask for him to be pointed out ,

    except,

    now that I think of it, for those who were considered to be the dregs of society.

    Those persons not only knew how to spot Jesus, they also, amazingly, knew more than the apostles. They knew that somehow that person had,in his person, the deepest answer for their suffering as sinners, and deepest longings.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    Manxman: I heard it said that artists paint Jesus to look like them. That is a very incarnational thought actually and deeply orthodox in a sense isn´t it? Jesus WAS the human race nailed to the cross. He was in fact, the girlie, the macho, the black the white the asian.

    I believe it was no mere happenstance that whoever sought Jesus out in a crowd always had to ask for him to be pointed out ,

    except,

    now that I think of it, for those who were considered to be the dregs of society.

    Those persons not only knew how to spot Jesus, they also, amazingly, knew more than the apostles. They knew that somehow that person had,in his person, the deepest answer for their suffering as sinners, and deepest longings.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    I wish I could see a larger image of this painting. hard to comment from what I see. It looks like what is "real" in the painting is the bread and wine. the recipients are ghostlike. Jesus is the only one who looks like he is alive. the rest could be dead. his crucified body seems to hang over the whole scene implying it to be the overall meaning.

    i am wondering if this is the last supper or the supper that happened after the resurrection when Jesus disappeared as he was blessing the host. in that case the apostles bowing to Jesus would be most appropriate in that they, finally, can truly see Jesus for who he is.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    I wish I could see a larger image of this painting. hard to comment from what I see. It looks like what is "real" in the painting is the bread and wine. the recipients are ghostlike. Jesus is the only one who looks like he is alive. the rest could be dead. his crucified body seems to hang over the whole scene implying it to be the overall meaning.

    i am wondering if this is the last supper or the supper that happened after the resurrection when Jesus disappeared as he was blessing the host. in that case the apostles bowing to Jesus would be most appropriate in that they, finally, can truly see Jesus for who he is.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    The fact that Dali obviously has put alot of thought into Jesus intrigues me.
    There IS something we christians do miss when we don´t view the story of Christ as being implausible. we sort of gloss over the doubt of the apostles and others thinking "why can´t they see those knuckeheads??!!"

    the response of joseph, and the apostles was the real deal. it breathes authenticity and credibility into the gospel accounts. Mary had her doubts too and represented the best of faith in that she knew it was impossible, probably had real doubts, and fears, and yet waited on the Lord and pondered everything in her heart.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    The fact that Dali obviously has put alot of thought into Jesus intrigues me.
    There IS something we christians do miss when we don´t view the story of Christ as being implausible. we sort of gloss over the doubt of the apostles and others thinking "why can´t they see those knuckeheads??!!"

    the response of joseph, and the apostles was the real deal. it breathes authenticity and credibility into the gospel accounts. Mary had her doubts too and represented the best of faith in that she knew it was impossible, probably had real doubts, and fears, and yet waited on the Lord and pondered everything in her heart.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    I read a Smithsonian article on Dali years back, before his death, in which he said that his Catholic faith was a central matter in his life (though he apparently didn't think there was any reason to let that affect his behavior). So I like to give him some benefit of the doubt in regard to his religious works.

    That said, the unreality of the scene bothers me and raises my suspicions.

    Great painting, though.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    I read a Smithsonian article on Dali years back, before his death, in which he said that his Catholic faith was a central matter in his life (though he apparently didn't think there was any reason to let that affect his behavior). So I like to give him some benefit of the doubt in regard to his religious works.

    That said, the unreality of the scene bothers me and raises my suspicions.

    Great painting, though.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    what was Dali´s behavior Lars?

    Do you believe that your behavior less worthy of "temporal and eternal damnation" and "unclean" than Dali´s was?

    Assuming that you are a Lutheran christian and so mouth these words weekly in front of the entire world as being true about your miserable brimming-with-filthy-sin-existence: why don´t you then stop that behavior of yours Lars in order to avoid your God condemning you the way you apparently have decided to condemn Dali ?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    what was Dali´s behavior Lars?

    Do you believe that your behavior less worthy of "temporal and eternal damnation" and "unclean" than Dali´s was?

    Assuming that you are a Lutheran christian and so mouth these words weekly in front of the entire world as being true about your miserable brimming-with-filthy-sin-existence: why don´t you then stop that behavior of yours Lars in order to avoid your God condemning you the way you apparently have decided to condemn Dali ?

  • Manxman

    fws

    I feel Dali has done with Jesus in this painting what the feminizing writers of the Lord of the Rings series did with the character of Aragorn – turned a determined, purposeful character with a distinct vision into a wistful, conflicted figure who lacks authority and substance. The "dregs" of society didn't see another sinner in Jesus, they saw someone who offered hope that someday they might rise above their sin and degradation into something better. They didn't want a Savior just like them.

    Just like the Passover sacrifice pointed to freedom after a life of slavery, so, too the "Last Supper (in a way it really ought to be called a FIRST supper – of the New Covenant), points to a coming victory which Jesus knew would be the outcome of His sacrifice.

  • Manxman

    fws

    I feel Dali has done with Jesus in this painting what the feminizing writers of the Lord of the Rings series did with the character of Aragorn – turned a determined, purposeful character with a distinct vision into a wistful, conflicted figure who lacks authority and substance. The "dregs" of society didn't see another sinner in Jesus, they saw someone who offered hope that someday they might rise above their sin and degradation into something better. They didn't want a Savior just like them.

    Just like the Passover sacrifice pointed to freedom after a life of slavery, so, too the "Last Supper (in a way it really ought to be called a FIRST supper – of the New Covenant), points to a coming victory which Jesus knew would be the outcome of His sacrifice.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    Lars, you confess Christ, as did Dali. Does your life truly reflect that you are completely sincere in your confession?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    Lars, you confess Christ, as did Dali. Does your life truly reflect that you are completely sincere in your confession?

  • Bruce Gee

    Frank, that would have been the supper in Emmaus, where only two of Jesus' disciples sat with him. Would Dali have interposed the two stories? Your comment about the depiction of the elements is excellent. It appears to me, though, that the disciples are praying.

  • Bruce Gee

    Frank, that would have been the supper in Emmaus, where only two of Jesus' disciples sat with him. Would Dali have interposed the two stories? Your comment about the depiction of the elements is excellent. It appears to me, though, that the disciples are praying.

  • Bruce Gee

    I see that Jesus is depicted in two ways here: as sitting at the table and as a larger figure hovering over the scene. The Jesus at the table is also less distinct than the other figures, as though he was beginning to ghost away. It is also impossible to not compare this to DiVinci's Last Supper, where the disciples are engaged with Jesus and each other, and lively. The disciples in Dali's painting appear to me to be praying, as though Jesus wasn't actually there.
    Could the two depictions of Jesus refer to His two natures?

    As to the question about orthodoxy, it is a difficult question to answer just by looking at the painting, unless I'm missing something obvious. I think we should try to avoid the temptation to look to the Artists life and beliefs, and to consider the painting on its own merits. On its own merits, the painting can certainly be considered orthodox if what it is trying to portray is the anticipation of Jesus' death (his "ghosting away" as I put it), the reality of his resurrection and Lordship as portrayed by the larger Jesus, and the subsequent eye-opening devotion of the disciples as Jesus "opened their minds to understand the scriptures" (Lk 24:45), post-resurrection. If it is to be seen as a depiction of what actually happened on Maundy Thursday, then no. I think we have to appreciate that Dali is conflating a larger story.

  • Bruce Gee

    I see that Jesus is depicted in two ways here: as sitting at the table and as a larger figure hovering over the scene. The Jesus at the table is also less distinct than the other figures, as though he was beginning to ghost away. It is also impossible to not compare this to DiVinci's Last Supper, where the disciples are engaged with Jesus and each other, and lively. The disciples in Dali's painting appear to me to be praying, as though Jesus wasn't actually there.
    Could the two depictions of Jesus refer to His two natures?

    As to the question about orthodoxy, it is a difficult question to answer just by looking at the painting, unless I'm missing something obvious. I think we should try to avoid the temptation to look to the Artists life and beliefs, and to consider the painting on its own merits. On its own merits, the painting can certainly be considered orthodox if what it is trying to portray is the anticipation of Jesus' death (his "ghosting away" as I put it), the reality of his resurrection and Lordship as portrayed by the larger Jesus, and the subsequent eye-opening devotion of the disciples as Jesus "opened their minds to understand the scriptures" (Lk 24:45), post-resurrection. If it is to be seen as a depiction of what actually happened on Maundy Thursday, then no. I think we have to appreciate that Dali is conflating a larger story.

  • http://centralpennsylvaniaorthodox.wordpress.com/ rightwingprof

    It's definitely not Orthodox.

  • http://centralpennsylvaniaorthodox.wordpress.com/ rightwingprof

    It's definitely not Orthodox.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/CharlesLehmann CharlesLehmann

    I think you're absolutely right. It's ethereal and otherworldly. To quote Luther, "You can't make Jesus into too much of a man." I think hyper-realism would be the better approach for this scene in particular.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/CharlesLehmann CharlesLehmann

    I think you're absolutely right. It's ethereal and otherworldly. To quote Luther, "You can't make Jesus into too much of a man." I think hyper-realism would be the better approach for this scene in particular.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/BurkeOhio BurkeOhio

    The observation that "the rest could be dead" crystalized what bothers me about this piece. Well said. I take no issue with the art insofar as it depicts the two natures of Christ, but as to the FEAST itself, the reactions are all wrong. They are, if anything receiving LIFE. That they are (apparently) humbly worshipping their Lord is (or would be) proper in the appropriate context…but this day we celebrate the BODY and BLOOD of Christ given to humanity; it is a very personal (indeed, could it be MORE personal?), very tangible benefit freely given to mankind. What I see here is a glorification of the Deity, not a humbling of His Son. Save it for Easter – I'm still in Lent.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/BurkeOhio BurkeOhio

    The observation that "the rest could be dead" crystalized what bothers me about this piece. Well said. I take no issue with the art insofar as it depicts the two natures of Christ, but as to the FEAST itself, the reactions are all wrong. They are, if anything receiving LIFE. That they are (apparently) humbly worshipping their Lord is (or would be) proper in the appropriate context…but this day we celebrate the BODY and BLOOD of Christ given to humanity; it is a very personal (indeed, could it be MORE personal?), very tangible benefit freely given to mankind. What I see here is a glorification of the Deity, not a humbling of His Son. Save it for Easter – I'm still in Lent.

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/danatnr Dan at NR

    I can't say I would trust someone would couldn't get clocks orthodox to get the Last Supper right. :)

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/danatnr Dan at NR

    I can't say I would trust someone would couldn't get clocks orthodox to get the Last Supper right. :)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/wcwirla wcwirla

    I agree that this art work has a gnostic feel to it, or perhaps a Platonic or neo-Platonic, depending on how find a distinction one wants to make.

    Jesus seems to be pointing to His body, depicted hovering above the Supper, rather than to the bread, which would be very congenial toward a Platonic "sign" understanding of the Lord's Supper, the bread being the signifier (signum) for the higher Body of Christ as the thing signfied (res signata). Also troubling is the absence of the marks of crucifixion on the torso floating above the Supper, though the arms seem to be outstretched in a manner evocative of the crucifixion.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/wcwirla wcwirla

    I agree that this art work has a gnostic feel to it, or perhaps a Platonic or neo-Platonic, depending on how find a distinction one wants to make.

    Jesus seems to be pointing to His body, depicted hovering above the Supper, rather than to the bread, which would be very congenial toward a Platonic "sign" understanding of the Lord's Supper, the bread being the signifier (signum) for the higher Body of Christ as the thing signfied (res signata). Also troubling is the absence of the marks of crucifixion on the torso floating above the Supper, though the arms seem to be outstretched in a manner evocative of the crucifixion.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    I looked for larger images, and found one here:
    http://www.sfdsnyc.org/images/dali%20last%20suppe

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    I looked for larger images, and found one here:
    http://www.sfdsnyc.org/images/dali%20last%20suppe

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ptmccain ptmccain

    I've always liked both this painting and the other one of Christ Crucified suspended over the planet To me, they both evoke the redemptive nature of Christ, both at the Last Supper, and on the cross. I suppose however one could read into all manner of unorthodox things. Maybe this is all true, but I've always found these paintings by Dali, a brilliant artist, though obviously troubled soul, to be moving. I think he captures the reality of Christ offering Himself up for our salvation, and the bowed heads of the Apostles, to me, denote reverence. That's my .02.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ptmccain ptmccain

    I've always liked both this painting and the other one of Christ Crucified suspended over the planet To me, they both evoke the redemptive nature of Christ, both at the Last Supper, and on the cross. I suppose however one could read into all manner of unorthodox things. Maybe this is all true, but I've always found these paintings by Dali, a brilliant artist, though obviously troubled soul, to be moving. I think he captures the reality of Christ offering Himself up for our salvation, and the bowed heads of the Apostles, to me, denote reverence. That's my .02.

  • Steven Anderson

    An interesting thing about this painting is what Dali said about it, which was, "The Eucharist must be symmetrical." I will have to look around to find the exact quote. If you notice the painting is exactly symmetrical. The disciples on the one side balance the disciples on the other. The only things not in symmetry are the landscape (which was Dali's home town of Port Lligat) and the one cup. I think that this quote of Dali speaks to what he saw as the importance of beauty and orderliness in the Church and its art – as opposed to the chaos that is often (not always) modern art. Ironically, Dali was a modern artist, a surrealist, but his religious paintings are never chaotic, rather, always reverential, symmetrical and beautiful. He always used his wife, Gala, as the model for the Blessed Virgin (as in "Corpus Hypercubis"), who he painted many times, with varying degrees of success. As to the "feminine" Jesus, Dali used a model for Christ (who was male) and simply reproduced what the model looked like.

  • Steven Anderson

    An interesting thing about this painting is what Dali said about it, which was, "The Eucharist must be symmetrical." I will have to look around to find the exact quote. If you notice the painting is exactly symmetrical. The disciples on the one side balance the disciples on the other. The only things not in symmetry are the landscape (which was Dali's home town of Port Lligat) and the one cup. I think that this quote of Dali speaks to what he saw as the importance of beauty and orderliness in the Church and its art – as opposed to the chaos that is often (not always) modern art. Ironically, Dali was a modern artist, a surrealist, but his religious paintings are never chaotic, rather, always reverential, symmetrical and beautiful. He always used his wife, Gala, as the model for the Blessed Virgin (as in "Corpus Hypercubis"), who he painted many times, with varying degrees of success. As to the "feminine" Jesus, Dali used a model for Christ (who was male) and simply reproduced what the model looked like.

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    Here's the link to that painting: http://www.artchive.com/artchive/d/dali/crucifix….

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    Here's the link to that painting: http://www.artchive.com/artchive/d/dali/crucifix….

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    "Also troubling is the absence of the marks of crucifixion on the torso floating above the Supper…"

    Dali does precisely the same thing in his crucifixion painting:

    http://www.artchive.com/artchive/d/dali/crucifix….

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    "Also troubling is the absence of the marks of crucifixion on the torso floating above the Supper…"

    Dali does precisely the same thing in his crucifixion painting:

    http://www.artchive.com/artchive/d/dali/crucifix….

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/danatnr Dan at NR

    I can't say I would trust someone who couldn't get clocks orthodox to get the Last Supper right. :)

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/danatnr Dan at NR

    I can't say I would trust someone who couldn't get clocks orthodox to get the Last Supper right. :)

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    This is a flagrant digression, but George Orwell once wrote an interesting review of Dali's autobiography: http://www.orwell.ru/library/reviews/dali/english

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    This is a flagrant digression, but George Orwell once wrote an interesting review of Dali's autobiography: http://www.orwell.ru/library/reviews/dali/english

  • Mackenzie

    Does anyone else only see 11 apostles?

  • Mackenzie

    Does anyone else only see 11 apostles?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X