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Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper may be one of the most famous paintings in the world, but I confess it does not stir my soul. Perhaps this is because of Leonardo’s focus on Judas’s treachery — the painting depicts the Apostles’ reaction when Christ reveals one of them will betray Him. Even Fra Angelico’s austere fresco — in the midst of Christ leaning over to give the host (Himself) to a bowing Apostle — inspires greater pathos.
Consider instead Peter Paul Rubens’s 17th Century masterpiece (shown below), in which a light-emanating Christ lifts bread with His eyes raised to heaven in gratitude and a hint of trepidation — fusing the unbloody sacrifice of Melchizedek with His own bloody sacrifice as the Paschal Lamb. Judas is the only man looking directly at the viewer, with an expression that pierces the soul, as if to indict all generations with a glance. In an instant, we are reminded of our own betrayal of Him and yet swept up into the light of His sacrifice and salvation.
Here is Rubens’s painting … in the comments, please share your favorite depictions of the Last Supper (and Institution of the Eucharist)!