“Supper at Emmaus”
“Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio depicts the moment when the resurrected Jesus reveals himself to two of his surprised disciples, only to soon vanish from their sight, as told in the Gospel of Luke 24: 30–31. One of the disciples, Cleopas wears the scallop shell of a pilgrim on his clothing. The other apostle, presumed to be Luke, wears the green torn coat. The standing waiter appears oblivious to the startling event that is taking place.
This event, according to the Gospel, took place in the town of Emmaus. Luke reports that Jesus appeared, after his death and resurrection, before two of his disciples while they were walking on the road to Emmaus. Its geographical identification is not clear, several locations having been suggested throughout history, all we know about the town is that it is on the road connecting it with Jerusalem.
According to the Gospel, Jesus appeared to them “in another form”, which may explain why Caravaggio depicted a beardless Jesus in this painting. In depicting Jesus interrupting an ordinary meal, is Caravaggio suggesting that perhaps Jesus, could be an unseen part of our daily activities or encounters? This painting depicts life-sized figures with a dark and blank background, and the table layout is a still-life meal with the basket of fruit dangling over the edge. Does the basket teetering on the edge of the table symbolise that an assumed life could be interrupted at any time?
Caravaggio was active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily from the early 1590s to 1610. His paintings combine the realistic observation of the physical and emotional human situation with the dramatic use of lighting. He made the technique of darkening shadows and transfixing subjects in bright shafts of light his dominant stylistic element. His influence on the new Baroque style that emerged from Mannerism was profound. In the 20th century, interest in his work revived and his importance to the development of Western art has been elevated.
- Does this painting symbolise that daily routine could be interrupted at any time?
- Is the crux of this painting, that the spiritual can be an unseen part of our daily life?
- Caravaggio was accused of murder, assault and many fights. Are you surprised to learn that he served time in prison?
- What is the message in this painting?
Explore the National Gallery
- “Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio – 1601
- “Samson and Delilah” by Peter Paul Rubens – 1610
- “The Judgement of Paris” by Peter Paul Rubens – 1635
- “Aurora abducting Cephalus” by Peter Paul Rubens – 1637
- “Equestrian Portrait of Charles I” by Anthony van Dyck – 1638
- “Venus at her Mirror” by Diego Velázquez – 1651
- “Self Portrait at the Age of 63” by Rembrandt – 1669
- “A Young Woman standing at a Virginal” by Johannes Vermeer – 1670
Supper at Emmaus
- Title: Supper at Emmaus
- Artist: Caravaggio
- Year: 1601
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions: Height: 141 cm (55.5 in); Width: 196.2 cm (77.2 in)
- Museum: The National Gallery, London
- Name: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
- Alternative: Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi
- Birth: 1571 – Milan, Duchy of Milan, Spanish Empire
- Died: 1610 (aged 38) – Porto Ercole, Grand Duchy of Tuscany
- Movement: Baroque
- Notable works:
“I am always learning.”
Photo Credit: 1) Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons