The Last Supper is a painting that portrays the reactions given by each apostle when Jesus said one of them would betray him. All 12 of the apostles have different reactions to this news, each of them having various degrees of shock and anger. They were all identified by their names, using an unsigned, mid-16th-century fresco copy of Leonardo’s Cenacolo. Before this, only John, Peter, Judas and Jesus had been positively identified. From left to right, according to the apostles’ heads:
- Bartholomew, James, son of Alphaeus, and Andrew form a group of three; all are surprised.
- Judas Iscariot, Peter, and John forms another group of three. Judas is wearing red, blue, and green and is in shadow, looking quite withdrawn and taken aback by this sudden revelation of his plan. He is holding a small bag, perhaps signifying the silver that had been given to him as a payment for betraying Jesus, or perhaps referencing his role as a treasurer. Judas is also tipping over the salt container, which could be related to the near-Eastern expression: “betray the salt”, meaning to betray one’s master. He is the only person to have his elbow on the table and his head is also vertically the lowest of anyone in the painting. Peter wears an expression of anger and appears to be clutching a knife, foreshadowing his violent reaction in Gethsemane during the arrest of Jesus. Peter is leaning towards John and touching him on the shoulder, referencing John’s Gospel where he signals the “beloved disciple” to ask Jesus who is going betray him. The youngest apostle, John, appears to swoon and lean towards Peter.
- Thomas, James the Greater, and Philip are the next group of three. Thomas is visibly upset; the raised index finger foreshadows his non-believing of the Resurrection. James the Greater looks shocked and stunned, with his arms in the air. Meanwhile, Philip appears to be requesting some explanation.
- Matthew, Jude Thaddeus, and Simon the Zealot are the final group of three. Both Thaddeus and Matthew are turned toward Simon, perhaps to find out if he has any answer to their initial questions.
Read more about The Last Supper here.