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Art for Meditation - November 2017


Pietro Lorenzetti (Siena, c. 1280/85 – c. 1348), Last Supper, 1310-20, fresco, Lower Church of San Francesco in Assisi

The scene, built around a table, takes place inside a magnificent hexagonal loggia (which is very much reminiscent of the structure of the pulpit of the Cathedral of Siena by Nicola Pisano). There, we can see the elements of tradition: the table is fitted out and the bread and the glass of wine are placed on it; the twelve are around Jesus – who is at the centre of the composition, dominating it – placed in a perfect arch, six on the left half and the other six on the right half; John has placed his head on the chest of the Master, whereas Judas is the only one without an aureole, thus testifying that the devil has already put in his heart the idea of treason (cf. Jn 13:2). Among the apostles there seems to be a slight movement, perhaps because they are caught at the moment when they are wondering who and how it will be possible for one of them to betray Jesus.

Nevertheless, the real surprise of this fresco is the view of the narrow room of the servants on the left: about a quarter of the surface of the fresco is occupied by the adjacent kitchen, where food is boiling over a fireplace and two servants are cleaning the crockery and throwing the leftovers; in the background you can recognise details of the furniture (a coal shovel and shelves with crockery), whereas in the foreground there is a cat warming up near the fire and a dog licking the leftovers off the dishes. This detail, which is a glimpse of reality, almost seems to bring into everyday life the great mystery that is being celebrated. Not for nothing there are two other characters, strangers to the Gospel story (maybe the hosts?), who are witnessing the event from the upper left corner of the large room where Jesus and the Apostles are.

If we think about it, we are also admitted to this solemn and unique moment: every time we gather with our community to celebrate the Eucharist, the great mystery of Jesus, who has given and keeps giving himself, becoming food and drink, the sacrament of salvation, is renewed.


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