British Cast Recreates an Avant-Garde Last Supper

A contemporary representation of the Last Supper in photography has been called “extremely silly” by Britain’s Catholic Herald newspaper.

Actor Robert Powell, who brought Jesus to life on the screen in Ziefirelli’s film “Jesus of Nazareth”, plays the lead in the new photographic interpretation of Leonardo DaVinci’s “Last Supper.”

Julie Andrews stepped in to portray Mary Magdalen (supporting an unsubstantiated—even discredited—feminist reinterpretation which asserts that it was Mary, not the apostle John, whose head lay upon Jesus’ shoulder).

With the two superstars committed to the project, it was easy to persuade other renowned British actors to fill the remaining roles.

Fr. Alexander Lucie-Smith, writing about the revisionist portrait, said,

Now let us be really clear about this. The Last Supper is a well-attested historical event, to which all four of the gospels bear witness. There is no doubt from the gospel accounts (which are the only ones that should be credited) that it was John the Evangelist who reclined next to Jesus, and that Mary of Magdala was not present.

The “speculation” to which Mr Morrison refers, and which has no basis in history or tradition, and which no serious historian or theologian has ever entertained, is of course the fevered imagining of multi-millionaire Dan Brown. Mr Brown’s fantasy that Mary of Magdala was, alone of the women, present at the Last Supper, and that John the Evangelist, alone of the Apostles, was absent, has no basis whatever. It simply makes no sense to see Mary there and John not – which is one reason why no one ever thought of this until Mr Brown did.

Morrison has now decided to photograph a reconstruction of a fresco as imagined by a contemporary novelist, further taking us away from historical reality, by having the John figure played by Julie Walters. St John was traditionally the youngest of the disciples, a beardless boy. Miss Walters is 63.

So does it really matter if the characters differ from the original DaVinci painting?  Father Lucie-Smith believes it is critically important:

When nonsense like this is allowed to pass, myths are made, and myths have the habit of hardening into false histories. Moreover, behind this process is a pernicious philosphical heresy, which claims that history is anything you want it to be. There are no facts, only interpretations. What really happened is completely lost, can never be recaptured, still less reconstructed. What we are left with is a series of images, each one distorted, and the truth forever beyond our reach. Thus Morrison’s Last Supper, Dan Brown’s, Leonardo’s, or the way you or I see Leonardo’s – each is a valid interpretation, but there is no canonical interpretation that trumps any other. There is in fact no “Last Supper”, just an infinite variety of last suppers.


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  • moseynon

    Artists have often taken liberties with their depiction of the Last Supper. Tintoretto’s version shows a cast of assistants, along with a host of angels swooping in from both sides of the painting. The Cathedral of Santo Domingo in Cusco, Peru has a large painting which shows a bowl with a roast guinea pig placed in the center of the table. Popular versions of the Last Supper often resemble da Vinci’s painting but with one, two or three characters who appear to be women.

    Being historically accurate is valuable, but perhaps some allowance for artistic license is also reasonable. Surely no one thinks that the Robert Powell/Julie Andrews version, with Jesus in a tuxedo, is a historically accurate portrayal of what occurred.

  • Gail Finke

    It’s just deconstructivist silliness. The whole point of deconstructivism is to drain the meaning out of everything — in other words, there’s no MEANING to the daVinci Last Supper, it’s just a shell for whatever you want to say (or in this case, not say). It’s kind of fun for a while (“Hey, let’s make one with cats!!!”) but quickly gets boring because a shell without meaning is inherently boring.