Last Supper (Rubens)

Last Supper
Peter Paul Rubens - Last Supper - WGA20255.jpg
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions304 cm × 250 cm (120 in × 98 in)
LocationPinacoteca di Brera, Milan

The Last Supper (1630–1631) is an oil painting by Peter Paul Rubens. It was commissioned by Catherine Lescuyer as a commemorative piece for her father. Rubens created it as part of an altarpiece in the Church of St. Rombout (Rumbold) in Mechelen.[1] The painting depicts Jesus and the Apostles during the Last Supper, with Judas dressed in blue turning back towards the viewer and away from the table. Other than Jesus, the most prominent figure is Judas. Judas holds his right hand to his mouth with his eyes avoiding direct contact with the other figures in the painting creating a nervous expression. Jesus is dressed in red and has a yellow halo surrounding his head with his face tilted upwards. Jesus is located centrally in the painting surrounded by his disciples with six on each side, and he holds a loaf of bread with a cup of wine in front of him. Out of all of the figures, he is the most in the light with the figures to the farthest left being the most in shadow. “The scene thus represents a perfect conflation of the theological significance of the Last Supper” meaning the conflation between the blessing of the bread and the wine while still being pivotal in the sense of revealing the betrayal.[2]

As in many other Northern European depictions, a dog with a bone can be seen in the scene, probably a simple pet. It may represent faith, dogs are traditionally symbols of and are representing faith.[3] According to J. Richard Judson the dog near Judas perhaps represents greed or evil, as the companion of Judas, as in John 13:27.[4]

This painting followed the first unsuccessful attempt by Rubens to produce a Last Supper in 1611, when his patrons backed out the last minute, perhaps due to the high price of 4,000 Guilder asked by Rubens.[5]

Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper fresco was a significant influence on Rubens who created an etching after the Davinci Last Supper, which was one of Rubens first attempts to express the full range of human emotion printed by Pieter Soutman. Rubens was also influenced by his humanist ideals from which he extracts biblical themes.[6]

Rubens often made engravings following the completion of his works. Other artists used these engravings to serve as a basis of their own works.[7] These copies were even collected.[8] The engravings and copies helped to lead to the popularity of Rubens’ works during his lifetime.


  • Alpers, Svetlana. "Review by: Sveltana Alpers." Renaissance Quarterly 35, no. 1 (Spring 1982): 114.
  • Freedberg, David. "The Last Supper." In Peter Paul Rubens: Oil Paintings and Oil Sketches. New York: Gagosian Gallery, 1995
  • Judson, Lindsay. The Passion of Christ. Washington DC: Harvey Miller Publishers, 2000.
  • Mulvihill, Maureen E. "Peter Paul Rubens: Impressions of a Master Exhibition." Seventeenth-Century News 70, no. 1-2 (Spring-Summer 2012): 76.
  • Tummers, Anna. Art Market and Connoisseurship: A Closer Look at Paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, and Their Contemporaries. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009.
  • Viladesau, Richard. The Pathos of the Cross: The Passion of Christ in Theology and the Arts - The Baroque Era. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Wieseman, Marjorie E. "Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens." Accessed February 12, 2015. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/projects/rubens/exhibition/designs3detail2.html.


  1. ^ Wieseman, Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens.
  2. ^ Freedberg, The Last Supper, 83.
  3. ^ Viladesau, The Pathos of the Cross.
  4. ^ Judson, The Passion of Christ, 49.
  5. ^ Tummers, Art Market and Connoisseurship, 117.
  6. ^ Mulvihill, Peter Paul Rubens: Impressions of a Master Exhibition, 76.
  7. ^ Freedberg, The Last Supper, 86.
  8. ^ Alpers, "Review by: Svetlana Alpers", 114

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