Last Suppers

I was browsing hulu yesterday, when I saw this promotional ad for the upcoming restart of Battlestar Galactica.

Battlestar Galactica Last Supper (2008) via hulu

The full image is very impressive and instantly recognizable:

Battlestar Galactica Season 4 (2008)
Battlestar Galactica Season 4 (2008)

The image is normally a center figure with flanked by four sets of trinities. Therefore, there is someone missing in the photo. I guess the missing cylon? A possibly interesting thing is the missing spot is occupied by Judas in the Da Vinci original.

(The series recap is hilarious.)

It is, of course, a homage to Leonard Da Vinci’s The Last Supper fresco:

The Last Supper (1495-1498) by Leonardo Da Vinci
The Last Supper (1495-1498) by Leonardo Da Vinci

The symmetry, the center triangle, the grouping of threes, the expressions, the lack of halos around the holy figures. While this is the restored version, even the barely-visible unrestored fresco is a powerful piece. It deserves all the copies it inspires and more.

[More Last Suppers after the jump]

Other (photographic) Last Suppers

I love photographic reimaginings of the Last Supper.

One of the first ones was this one done for the women’s liberation movement:

Some Living American Women Artists / Last Supper (1971) - Mary Beth Edelson
Some Living American Women Artists / Last Supper (1971) by Mary Beth Edelson

Unlike later pieces, this is a collage where part of the statement in the art was draw attention to the fact that all the heads in the original painting were male.

Then, of course, you have this (in)famous Brooklyn art composite:

Yo Mama's Last Supper (1996)—Renee Cox
Yo Mama’s Last Supper (1996) by Renee Cox

By choosing a collage, the artist emphasizes the trinities in the image while disposing of one (the windows). Renee herself is the central figure (naked) in a crucification pose. The white “disciple” would be in the Judas spot if the panel was on the left side instead of the right (mirror symmetry error by the artist?).

By modern times parodies had become ubiquitous in advertising copy. One favorite of mine was for the TV show The Sopranos:

The Sopranos Last Supper (1999) by Annie Liebovitz
The Sopranos (1999) by Annie Liebovitz

Annie Liebowitz is known for getting famous people to help her push boundaries—More Demi Moore anyone? Like that photo, this one also appeared in Vanity Fair and helped touch of a national interest in HBO’s new series. Similarly, in 2005, Leibovitz came up with a reference to Dante’s Inferno, and then closed out the series last year with another Vanity Fair cover shoot. A modern master of photography.

I don’t know why it is, but homages of the Last Supper seem to inspire some pretty hefty backlash. Yo Mama was attacked by Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the Catholic Church in 2001 (pre-September 11). Thankfully, it was pre-September 11 and really tame compared to Piss Christ (1989).

Eventually, I hope righteous anger will die down, but until then, we keep rearing its ugly head:

A Tribute to Women (2005)
A Tribute to Women (2005)

This photography was an advertisement for a French fashion agency. It was banned in Milan during the run up for The DaVinci Code movie. The image is a painstaking homage in its detail right down to the forshadowing of the crucifixtion in the legs of the central model (and destroyed in the original). One disappointing part is the choice of a male model eliding to the myth, propgated by Dan Brown, that the John figure is Mary Magdeline.

Which finally brings me to Last Year’s Folsom Street Fair poster:

Folsom Street Fair Poster (2007)
Folsom Street Fair Poster (2007)

You can imagine how religious conservatives would react to an image with sex toys replacing the body and blood of Christ. I’ve learned to be much more tolerant, though I supposed I have to be because I live in San Francisco.

What I find clever is that the photographer deliberately chose to congregate the trinities around the Jesus figure (in this case a gay, black man), forming a triangle with their body positions in direct contrast to the peeling-away-in-horror reaction in the original fresco when Jesus tells the apostles that one among them will betray him.

I missed the event that year because I was sick, hopefully this year.

They say you can learn to be a better photographer from studying the masters of paint, photography, and cinematography. Maybe being reminded of this will help me see opportunities for symmetry, shape, and emotion in the future.

Until then, I continue to be envious of well-done posed studio photography.

Other Last Supper parodys.

4 thoughts on “Last Suppers

  1. Did you happen to catch the article in ArtForum that appeared in the Fall 07 issue on this same subject?

    Btw, thanks for the reminder… I now know what I plan to do for my “homage”/theoretical assignment in photography later this semester. Now to gather at least 6 models.

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