First, there is appreciation for the patience of those exchanging dialogue and viewpoints regarding this writer’s time constraints which are severely limiting timely responses.
Also, please be assured that it is only
a reflection of available time to compose that responses may at times seem clipped. They are not meant to be. At other times a reply may seem to not address (or only skip lightly over) each and every point brought forth by another writer. In such instances, it is all about limited time to compose, noting more. Neither is focus on one writer’s comments more than another ‘personal’ in any way but only to address something that is salient to a current or on-going point of discussion.
So quickly to a few thoughts:
Renaissance paintings were often full of symbolism and this 'V' shape is rather obvious and encourages viewers to wonder about its meaning
Perhaps "interest", but as conclusory evidence assumed by many that it symbolically represents a woman's womb, the "Holy Grail"? Such "insight" into what is not there is more a case of Scotoma
(in reverse compared to its usage by Professor Langford in Dan Brown’s novel). Rather than see what Leonardo intended as simply a space incidental to the painting (much less his intent to provide support for a hypothesis developed much later), someone “sees” what he/she wants
to see as fitting the now popular notion that it symbolizes "who" or "what" the grail is.
Is the 'V' shape just an artistic technique? Why on that side but not the other?
Applying that criterion, a “V” is quite obvious between the left shoulder of Philip and right shoulder of Matthew (in the blue garment). The one appearing between Philip and Matthew is not as dramatic as the one appearing between Jesus and John (a comparison which will no doubt be pounced upon by those wishing to be persuaded the one between Jesus and John has a hidden meaning) but never-the-less a clearly visible “V” between Philip and Matthew.
You asked “Why not [a “V” on] the other [side]?”
This writer asks, Quid Pro Quo, “Why not recognize the "V" between Philip and Matthew? Why not argue by the same standard and logic being applied to the “V” between Jesus and the person to his right also to the "V" between Philip and Matthew as representing (or also representing) the “Sacred Feminine”, the “Holy Grail”?
Again, Quid Pro Quo, “One Standard” applied to all the “Vs” in the picture. That would assure no double-standard creeps in that is convenient to only one interpretation would it not?
…you would expect the 'beloved' one to be with Jesus at his final Passover meal, but why not his mother and sisters and Mary Magdalene? If we can't miss out one, why miss out the others?
There is a difference between Jesus’ disciples, of which there were many but not all
were Apostles. On the other hand, Jesus’ Apostles, of which there were only twelve, were each also a disciple. It was Jesus’ apostles/disciples that were present at “The Last Supper”, not disciples who were not also Apostles. That is why Jesus’ mother and Mary Magdalene were not at the table. Neither were Apostles (Mt 10:2-4)
The identity of 'the beloved disciple' is something of a mystery
Nothing personal, but it seems a bit ironic that the identity of the one “Jesus loved” can be described as “somewhat of a mystery” in the face of such assurances from so many that the figure to Jesus’ right in Leonardo’s painting is clear to them as being Mary Magdalene.
Remembering the difference between a disciple and an Apostle/disciple, only John, the youngest of the Apostles and the last to die would have been at the table, not Mary Magdalene. It has already been established Leonardo portrayed young men with effeminate features so the figure to Jesus’ immediate right, John, would be so painted pursuant to the tradition of the Florentine School.
Finally, to the claim that the writer of the Fourth Gospel does not identify the disciple in question so (a) it could be Mary Magdalene and/or (b) Mary Magdalene is the author of the Fourth Gospel...
None of the four Gospel accounts self-identify as do the writers of Ezekiel, Hosea, and many other Hebrew Testament authors. To the list of those biblical writers that do identify themselves as the authors can be added the name of the youngest and last to die Apostle when composing The Revelation as noted in Chapter 1, verse 1 (and yes, this
writer is aware of those who as on every matter are called upon to argue that it was someone else that wrote The Revelation).
Last but not least, is the N.T. record which rules out one of two possible identities of the disciple "whom Jesus loved" that is in question:
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved and said to them...
The description speaks for itself. Mary Magdalene is clearly identified as being a separate person from the “disciple whom Jesus loved”.
In the face of this construction, it is impossible to maintain the argument that she is the writer of the Fourth Gospel who does not identify herself as the disciple "whom Jesus loved" but later names herself as approaching
Peter and herself
Remember the dispute at that last meal as who was the greatest? It is much more defensible that the writer of the Fourth Gospel refers to himself in the third party in modesty opposed to saying “I, John, am the disciple that leaned back upon my Master’s breast, I the one whom he loved, I the one who along with Peter Mary Magdalene ran to tell our Master’s tomb had been opened”.
Surely Jesus loved all his disciples and disciple/apostles, but there was apparently something special about John which is why he was singled out as the one “whom Jesus loved”. Perhaps it was his youth, perhaps because he would be the last to carry on the message. We cannot know.
Only time for one more topic, the glassware Leonardo painted.
I would like to hope that anyone seriously studying the painting would realize that it owes a lot to Leonardo's own life and times. It supposedly reflects the holy land of Jesus’ time, but actually reflects Renaissance 'Italy'
This is exactly why the painting has been exploited in developing this and that fanciful speculation. Had Leonardo painted accurately according to Jesus’ time
, clear glasses would not have been represented, neither would he have omitted a single vessel from which all the disciple/apostles shared a drink of wine as described in the N.T. Regardless of whether or not there were
individual drinking cups for all present (again they wouldn’t likely have been glass, much less clear), the fact remains that one and one vessel alone is represented as being passed among those present (except Judas who had departed). That item is no where to be found in Leonardo’s portrayal so once again, opportunity is provided by Leonardo's omissions to give rise to the claim that a visual “V” between Jesus and the figure to his right represents that vessel (The Holy Grail).
Painting in the style of the Renaissance – should not be used to excuse lack of accuracy on the part of Leonardo in portraying a subject that had the benefit of multiple descriptions of the event provided by the N.T.
As to Leonardo’s portrayal of the “clear” table glasses, it was not until 100 C.E. (A.D) with the discovery in Alexandria that adding manganese oxide
to the glass making process would produce “clear” glass. Even in the Renaissance, it was not until about 1688 C.E. (A.D.) that a method of pouring glass was developed thus making it more prevalent.
The Romans invented glassware
You might want to check your information. While the Romans did contribute to the slow spread of glass in its various forms (typical of the time) through conquest and trade, they absolutely did not invent glass or glassware.
As previously noted, glass and experimentation with it dates to early Egyptian and Mesopotamia. Almost a thousand years after those early evidences, a “How To” produce glass was discovered in 650 B.C.E (B.C.) on tablets from the reign of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. So with all due respect, the Roman's didn't "invent" glass. During the time of Jesus, Rome was still importing most of its glass items from Syria, Phoenicia, and other conquered nations that had already developed the art of glass production. Jesus and his disciple/Apostles were most likely to have used drinking vessels made from wood or clay, not glass.
Pursuant to the topic title, “Leonardo’s Painting – A Fatal Flaw”, the error of clear and multiple glassware joins the growing catalogue of errors (a few more of which were hopefully addressed in this post), contributing to the cumulative total of why it does not merit the authority being accorded to it. Appealing to Leonardo’s Last Supper claiming it shows the “Holy Grail” in a ”V”-shaped space, or that Mary Magdalene is the identity of the figure to Jesus’ right because it appears effeminate, etc., is based upon a flawed source.
More to come, next about the painting in relation to the observation of Passover.