1928-1987 | American
Last Supper Detail: Jesus, John, Peter and Judas
Features stamp of Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board Inc. (en verso)
Silkscreen on paper mounted on canvas
Created by the legendary Pop artist Andy Warhol, Last Supper Detail: Jesus, John, Peter and Judas is part of the final series of the artist's illustrious career, his famed Last Supper cycle. The body of work was commissioned by his friend and art dealer, Alexandre Iolas, who challenged Warhol to create a series of works based on Leonardo da Vinci's great masterpiece The Last Supper. The series would be shown at an exhibition in Milan at the Palazzo Stelline, located across the street from da Vinci's mural in the refectory of the Santa Maria delle Grazie. The art critic Arthur Danto describes the show, "When [Warhol’s] Last Supper was displayed in Milan, in a kind of citywide two-man show with Leonardo, 30,000 people flocked to see it, hardly any of whom went to see the ‘other’ Last Supper... When the final multivolume Popular History of Art is published, ours will be the Age of Warhol – an unlikely giant, but a giant nonetheless.”
Warhol's Last Supper cycle encompassed two distinctive series. The first included hand-painted works based on a line drawing, to which the Museum of Modern Art's The Last Supper and the Andy Warhol Museum's The Last Supper / Be Somebody with a Body belong. The second, and arguably the more important, series included silkscreens such as the present work, which Warhol derived from a black and white photograph of a widely circulated 19th-century engraving.
While the majority of his Last Supper silkscreens reproduce the image of the entire mural, Last Supper Detail: Jesus, John, Peter and Judas is among the rare detail studies that are included in the series. Unlike its unabridged counterparts, the work offers a fascinating character study that pulls the viewer into the drama and intimacy of the original work. This particular composition sheds light on the relationship between Jesus and three of his most well-known apostles, John, Judas and Peter. In da Vinci's original, he captures the moment when Jesus proclaims that one among them would betray them, and here Warhol zeroes in on three of the most compelling reactions to the news. Peter, who holds a knife, wears an expression of anger that foreshadows his violent reaction in Gethsemane during the arrest of Jesus. The traitorous Judas is depicted in shadow, visibly shrinking away from his future betrayal, while John, the most beloved apostle, depicts a serenity and sadness that mimics Jesus' own expression. As a whole, Warhol's ingenious cropping offers compelling insight into the psychology of these biblical characters.
Unlike many of his other serialized works of soup cans and Marilyns, Warhol's Last Supper Detail: Jesus, John, Peter and Judas has an emotional impact that elevates it beyond Pop Art's exploration of mass production and over popularization. Perhaps the scene's intimacy derives from Warhol's nostalgia for the work; born into a Ruthenian Catholic family, Warhol grew up in a religious home where a reproduction of da Vinci's The Last Supper graced his family's kitchen wall. With both aesthetic and sentimental ties to the image, it is little wonder that Warhol's obsession with his Last Supper cycle preoccupied the last year of his life.
Andy Warhol died prematurely at the age of 58 in February 1987 following a gall bladder surgery. His series based on The Last Supper was the last he was ever to paint.
Easily recognizable as one of the most famous and influential artists of the modern era, Warhol was the most prominent member of the Pop Art movement that dominated the art scene in the mid-20th century. He was the quintessential artist of his time and place, elevating popular and commercial culture to the realms of high art. His distinctive photographic silkscreen printing is immediately recognizable, and the present example is a truly exceptional example of the art form.
Silkscreen: 51" high x 40 3/4" wide
Frame: 66" high x 56" wide
The World of da Vinci, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, California, May 24, 2019 – September 8, 2019
Andy Warhol's Last Supper, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, 2019, by R. Swan, B. Kinch and C. Stewart, p. 101 (illustrated)
Private collection, United States