The whole reason my pages began was to show a picture of the Last Supper painting and to discuss the hand and the knife. That was all the site began with. So, let's go back to the beginning. What do you think the hand and knife really mean? It is really just a knife that a certain apostle "happens" to be holding, that "happens" to be by Judas, that "happens" to be in a very odd position?
I personally don't think so - I think that Leonardo spent over 2 years on this work of art and planned each detail very carefully ... it's not like he just tossed a random collection of characters quickly onto a wall ...
Is Judas holding that knife? I think both his hands are really visible on the table. I'd say it's more like a symbolic way to suggest Judas is the one who would betray Jesus - a "third" hand with a knife, a knife hidden behind his back...
There are really a lot of 'weird' faces, gestures, characters in this painting - and yes, I agree, none of these just 'happen' to be there...
Oh right it's not Judas holding the knife - Judas has like you said both of his hands on the table, and he is holding the bag with 30 silver pieces in one of the hands. But the knife is positioned immediately behind his back, so there's a lot of discussion about why that was done. So right, it can definitely be symbolic, that Judas is a "back stabber".
What do you think about the theory of a "hidden short dwarf guy" down next to the knife?
The hand and the knife seem deliberately out of place even at first glance. It would seem that Da Vinci could have certainly depicted that knife as being in Peter's hand had he wanted to. It would seem that, to an artist with obsessive detail to symmetry and detail, that the odd angle of the hand and knife would be intollerable for them unless it was intentional. Especially having four years to think it over.
But my first thought, before I knew I was supposed to be looking for the connection between the knife and Peter's arm, was that Peter's right hand was clearly resting on Judas' right shoulder. His hand on Judas' shoulder for support also seems the most natural position if you wanted to lean in to talk to someone two seats down, with the other hand on John/Mary's shoulder, especially amongst friends. It's also not so obvious that the artist couldn't explain it away if they were forced to.
Charles - there are definitely a lot of pages now - to think it all grew from just one page about the hand and knife! People are very curious about the book and keep writing in with more questions
JFred - I suppose part of what we have to keep in mind here is that the "basis" for the row of people sitting and eating is off in the first place. That is, look at that painting and then rewind in time to a minute before Jesus speaks. They're all sitting and eating. How could they possibly even fit, the way they are laid out there? If Peter was NOT leaning over to talk to Mary, there's literally no place for him to have a plate in front of him there at the table
Never mind on the other side of the table, Thomas (the guy with his finger sticking up into the air) has no place to sit at all either.
So we do have to realize that this moment in history that Leonardo is showing is "staged". He put everyone on one side of the table, he had them in chairs instead of lounging on divans which would have been historically accurate. He did those things so he *could* put his people into very specific locations in relationship to each other, to help tell the story.
I agree that it seems Peter is friendly with Mary. Some people think he is threatening, but I don't get that sense at all. I get the sense that he wants to tell her something important and is trusting her with this news vs shouting it out to the table. She is listening calmly and trustingly.
This discussion really puzzles me. The image of the knife doesn't seem at all out of place to me. The hand seems at a reasonable, if severe angle. Hold something similar in your right hand and place the back of your wrist on your hip - Voila. The fact that Peter has a knife doesn't seem out of place at a dinner table - note that the plate in front of Peter appears to have something piled on it. There was supposed to be fish at this meal correct? It also seems perfectly reasonable that the meal would be served "family style" so having a single party with a knife to divvy up the fish seems perfectly plausible.
Does anyone know an online source for comments on the work from Da Vinci's contemporaries?
Davey - yes, that posture is of course what Leonardo was using as his base. But he was a master of anatomy and if he WAS actually doing that just as a "casual pose" it would have been done far more realistically. It's an approximation of that pose but not a realistic one. So the question is a more theoretical one. If Leonardo was choosing to use that general pose but deliberately made it such an 'odd' angle - why? He worked on this piece for many years. He did everything for a very deliberate reason. It's not just "chance" that Peter has a knife - and that the knife is at an odd angle - and that it's behind Judas.
It's not just chance that Peter has a knife. In the story, Peter defends Judas later with a knife. Every object and person in this painting has meaning. Leonardo was an incredible intellectual who loved those sorts of things.
It's not like they ate one gigantic fish They all had their own utensils. It isn't unleavened bread either. The bread is most definitely fluffy. I talk about these things on the site but the meal is NOT the passover meal. That is another deliberate choice made by Leonardo.
I can't find any contemporary reports at all on the web but I know he was incredibly well respected at this point - he wasn't an unknown. He was quite the celebrity in his world