Senior Chorister at Westminster Abbey Jeremy Suppey chooses The Last Supper as his favourite painting
The Last Supper, 1495–98, by Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), 15ft by 29ft, Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan
Jeremy says: ‘I feel there’s such sadness here. Jesus knew this was going to be his last meal and that every passing minute was going to lead him to his death, which must have been such a hard thing to know and bear. The sense of solemnity is very real and the faded colours and cool blue tones emphasise it.
‘Leonardo was just such a brilliant man in loads of ways. This painting makes me think about ‘last’ things that are coming up for me, too. This is my last year in the choir, which makes me reflective.’
Jeremy Suppey, aged 12, is Senior Chorister at Westminster Abbey. He will be singing in all the Abbey’s Christmas services.
John McEwen comments: ‘Christmas may conjure images of the Nativity, but central to its celebration for millions of Christians is Midnight Mass and central to Mass is the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
‘The faith of many Christians is stirred by Christmas and Easter, perhaps especially this year, as the most vicious persecution since the dawn of Christianity of some of the longest established Christian churches and communities continues unabated in the Near East. What better choice than the ultimate painting of Jesus’s initiation of the Holy Eucharist—at the Last Supper with his 12 apostles, before his death and resurrection?
‘Leonardo da Vinci wrote that the most praiseworthy picture ‘most closely resembles the thing to be imitated’. The Last Supper’s only dramatic incident described in all four Gospels is when Jesus says one of them will betray him: ‘And they began to inquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing’ (Luke 22.23). Jesus is at the centre, his position emphasised by the backdrop of a daylit and central window. To his left is John, writer of the Gospel, leaning to hear what Peter is saying, and in front of Peter is Judas Iscariot. Judas is identified by the symbolism of the upset salt cellar he has knocked over, which is why, when salt is spilt, a pinch of it is still thrown over shoulders to ward off bad luck.
‘Painted in tempera on a stone wall of the dining hall, long-term clarity may have been doomed by damp from the start. Visitors are warned to book more than two months in advance.’