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“The Last Supper” by Peter Paul Rubens

"The Last Supper" by Peter Paul Rubens

“The Last Supper” by Peter Paul Rubens

“The Last Supper” by Peter Paul Rubens depicts Jesus and the Apostles during the Last Supper, with Judas facing towards the viewer and away from the table. Judas is the most prominent figure amongst the disciples. Judas holds his right hand to his mouth with his eyes avoiding direct contact with the other participants, with a nervous expression.

Jesus is dressed in red and has a yellow halo surrounding his head as he looks upwards. Jesus is located in the center of the painting. There are six disciples on each side. Jesus holds a loaf of bread with a cup of wine in front of him. Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper fresco influenced Rubens as did his humanist ideals from which he extracts biblical themes. The composition was also inspired by Venetian 16th century painting.

A dog with a bone can be seen at the feet of Judas. Dogs were traditional symbols of loyalty and faith. However, this dog appears to be associated with Judas and seems to represent greed or evil, as the companion of Judas.

A wealthy daughter commissioned this painting as a memorial for her father. Rubens created it as part of an altarpiece in the Church of St. Rumbold in Mechelen, a city in the province of Antwerp, Flanders, Belgium. Rubens used assistants for the less critical parts of this painting, but the handling of the figures’ facial features has the distinct touch of the master’s hand. The Brera Art Gallery acquired the picture as part of an exchange with the Musee du Louvre in 1813.

Last Supper

The Last Supper is the final meal that Jesus shared with his Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The four Gospels all state that the Last Supper took place towards the end of the week, after Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and that Jesus and his Apostles shared a meal shortly before Jesus was crucified at the end of that week. During the meal, Jesus predicts his betrayal by one of the Apostles present.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.
And while they were eating, he said,
“Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other,
“Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

Scholars have looked to the Last Supper as the source of early Christian Eucharist traditions. Others see the account of the Last Supper as derived from 1st-century eucharistic practice, as described by Paul in the mid-50 AD. Early Christianity observed a ritual meal known as the “agape feast” which were a full meal, with each participant bringing food, and with the meal eaten in a shared room. They were held on Sundays, which became known as the Lord’s Day. The ritual was used to recall the resurrection, the appearance of Christ to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the presentation to Thomas, and the Pentecost, which all took place on Sundays after the Passion.

Last Supper in Art

The Last Supper has been a popular subject in Christian art and dates back to early Christianity and can be seen in the Catacombs of Rome. There are three major themes in the depictions of the Last Supper. The first is the dramatic depiction of Jesus’s announcement of his betrayal. The second is the institution of the tradition of the Eucharist, in which Jesus gives his disciples bread and wine during the Passover meal. The third theme is the farewell of Jesus to his disciples, in which Judas is no longer present, having left the supper.

Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens was a Flemish artist who is considered the most influential artist of the Flemish Baroque tradition. Rubens specialized in making altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects. His compositions referenced classical and Christian history and emphasized movement, color, and sensuality.

Rubens often made engravings following the completion of his works. These copies were even collected, and other artists used these engravings as the basis of their works.  The etchings and prints helped to increase the popularity of Rubens’ works during his lifetime.

The Last Supper

Peter Paul Rubens

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Twitter feedback to @joyofmuseums for the post on 12th May 2019:

Question: What does Judas’ face tell us?

  • Felling guilty, after to have been targeted✍🏽☑️
  • Well I’m sorry I should have said something more elegant but he looks like he just farted.
  • Pondering his act of betrayal in the light of Jesus’s words “What you have to do, do it fast.”
  • Wondering whether what he did is going to be worth it because he’d hit the point of no return. They were abstract before, his actions, but now, is all real.
  • He didn’t like the man he was looking at…
  • That he seeks the opinion of men, rather than focusing on God.
  • Guilt and fear, and he is laying down with dogs.
  • That he s not going to tell us…😉
  • Telling us not to doubt the religious philosophy
  • Why the Dog is depicted as an associate of Judas ??
  • Judas’ face should tell us Christ was not betrayed. Judas, like all of us, are beloved
  • Judas está de costas para os outros, não consegue enfrentar o olhar deles! Está nervoso! (Translation:
    Judas is on the sidelines for you, not to confront or forget them! He is nervous!)
  • He knows what us going to happen.
  • De arrepentimiento. (translation: Of repentance)
  • The dog at his feet knows what’s in his heart.
  • “What have I done?”
  • Conflicting emotions.
  • I think Judas needed the silver to pay off gambling debts, he has no poker face.
  • He stares at the viewer, not the world he is in, but our world.
  • Judas’ face says “Now what is he doing? This is not how the Messiah I was waiting for would act. I can’t even bear to watch this.”
  • It is a man looking to see “are they here yet”. And I feel he is looking past us, but the dog seems to be staring a hole in my soul.

Twitter feedback to @joyofmuseums for the post on 4th Nov 2019:

Question: What does Judas’ face tell us?

  • There’s one in every crowd
  • Greed…
  • “These guys don’t look middle eastern at all to me.”
  • What have I done.
  • Nervosismo!
  • Loooooove this!
  • “I should have gone into real estate.”
  • A huge responsability in his shouders. Fear. Not conferable . Don seem a person that is making something for the money 🤔
  • A guilty conscience of someone who’s abt 2 do something bad…
  • I told him that red is soooooooooo last year, but would he listen. Still it might come in handy soon as it does hide stains better than yellow.
  • I wish they had cameras in those days. Unmanupulated pictures. It’s a great painting. By the Flemish artist. I think I saw in Louvre.
  • Fear.
  • That he knows he is making a huge mistake …
  • He’s thinking that he may have made a mistake. He’s also wondering if it’s too late to change what he’s done.
  • At least he thought about it first unlike the Conservative Remainers …
  • He feels apprehensive about what he is about to do
  • In a few centuries religious organizations and churches will be tax exempt. Brilliant!
  • Judas is incorporated even as the central figure of the painting and makes the viewer ask Jesus sideways and vice versa. Judas think, I do it or not? With a totally out of control look.
  • “I’ve been a naughty boy and everybody knows it…..”
  • Shit am busted, I should beat it whilst I can
  • Guilt in his face as he considers his evil greedy intentions. What we can learn is everyone who may dine with you , may not have goodness in thier hearts.
  • “Ooh, what shall I buy first?!”
  • Distracted – face turned away from the group – hand against chin indicating thinking – worried perhaps – other hand on the table – perhaps a sign he’s torn should he stay or go? He’s probably about to leave the table but is uncertain
  • That he’d vote Trump?
  • That two different Gospels are going to disagree on how he dies??
  • Envy!


  • Does the Dog in this painting represent faith or greed?
  • What does Judas’ face tell us?


“Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
– Jesus during the Last Supper


Photo Credit: 1) Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain]

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