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(A modern critical analysis of an infamous painting that needs no more attention at all…
but let’s just ask a very obvious question about it. )

Words by Marc Basil

Iced Americano - 1:05 PM MST
Phoenix, AZ    10.12.23

Sen֮or (mister). Yaritza Flores Bustos   @delosflores

INRI - The initialism INRI represents the Latin inscription IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDÆORVM (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum), which in English translates to "Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews" (John 19:19).1

Apostles - a: one of an authoritative New Testament group sent out to preach the gospel and made up especially of Christ's 12 original disciples.

b: a person who initiates a great moral reform or who first advocates an important belief or system.2

Who was present
at The Last Supper?

Act l: Reason

In attendance, we can assume that

all attendees have drawn water from the same

well at some point. These are no ordinary bystanders who happen

to eat and drink at the same table as Jesus. This is the most special

event according to its time. (So is any other event where the presence

of people is trafficked.) From the toilet to the supermarket, even Jesus has

to relieve himself and drink or shop for water as you do.

The Apostles at the Last Supper seem to be dressed in similar attire.

What makes Jesus the central figure is not that he is dressed

down in designer. Now sure he is physically and compositionally

the central figure. In a metaphorical sense when he is taken out of the

position and environment of his job it does not stop him to

love thy neighborLeviticus19:18.  And to “love thy neighbor” is to

care for others as you do yourself.

If he is positioned on the wings of this

composition his nature continues to be an immobile substance.

Who is in attendance? If he is not will the image still hold as much

relevance as today? This is a certain part of the Apostles' duty to uphold

the powers and beliefs of Christianity on their own accord without

their boss, Jesus, breathing down their necks.

But we can also assume that they were not paid.

They acted upon their love itself to fulfill their desire and faith.

If the people present at this time

are not pictured does the exclusion of them make them

lesser people? And if they are the included people does

the connotation that they are being exploited align with

the reasoning that it is an act mainly for the elitists (Apostles) to

feel and be perceived as being empathic?

Can we say that the group present in this image represents

the whole populous at the time?

The Apostles are bestowed upon the belief that because

they are considered, they are important to the event.

Two people believe this, Jesus (INRI), and the artist who

made up this image, Leonardo de Vinci. Creative reason is

shown in a grand scheme of artistry from both people.

Jesus finds a select amount of people to be his closest followers (Showing a creative

control/direction over how his image will later be displayed and preached).

Leonardo de Vinci imagines a told event by grouping individuals,

displaying facial expressions and body language (Showing creative

control/direction on how INRI’s image will later be displayed and preached by an imagined realist

perspective of an undocumented religious event). Relate

these characteristics of how an Instagram post may function as it

is intended to display documentation of something, someone,

or an event in a manipulated manner.

And what gives Leonardo the right and justification to be in control of this crucial event and how it will be discovered?

There are reasonable outcomes to question in the presence of this image.

Act ll: Presence

Artist Not Vital alludes to a similar idea of attendance in a site-specific chapel called

The “Bataan Chapel”.

The composition of this piece is highly abstracted with the

only indication of the presence of people is made by

black stains on the location of each Apostle's face.

The Last Supper at Bataan Chapel by Not Vital

Here Not Vital goes against the traditions of portraiture targeting one of the basic principles of making a portrait look like a person.

Without this principle, the reason to make a portrait is not sensible.

The ideology of documentation for a thing to be perceived as it is, is abandoned

in Not Vital’s piece.

This installation piece at the Bataan Chapel subtracts from the principles.

The tiles used as canvas emphasize a brutalist aesthetic

in a painting that also acts as

a piece of architecture. The stripping down of information

makes us rely on the mythical narratives that may be suggested from a supposed event.

Like the original Last

Supper we are meant to question the reason for this gathering and who these people are.

We reason that the people displayed have some prominence.

Going back to my note previously mentioned if the people present represent the

populous, imagine the feeling of F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out), when it is found in de Vinci’s Last Supper that the people that would have believed to be included in this picture are not.

Because of the presumption that they believe in themselves to be

close to Jesus, this control on who is acknowledged is up to de Vinci and the written documentation.

To an extent, the Apostles don’t need to be included in this picture if the focus is held within INRI and the Apostles perform as duplicates.

Let’s suggest that the Apostles are INRI’s employees to relate it to our modern world.

INRI recognizes them for their devotion and work by including them in the

“staff photo”. The Apostles feel acknowledged, therefore this selfless act by

INRI stands as a tale for the Apostles to do the same for others thus breaking down this idea of prominence. An invisible layer of a power dynamic is then deconstructed.

Again,   love thy neighborLeviticus19:18

As INRI knowingly accepts his role and prominence, he must fit this identity into all

other parts of his life. INRI has all the means and reason to not love thy neighbor but to go

against the regulations of his job, which is also his moral code, would be contradictory.

Act lll: Interrelationship

A currency exchange is suspected to have not been present for the Apostles

to follow INRI. There is a mutual exchange and understanding in the event

and interrelationships. We can imagine this also reflected outside the

picture plane.
Can we say the same of a realist experience for what happens outside of

an Instagram post? Or maybe the occasion of “And you text nothing like you look.”3

What true presecne is depicted when we are confronted

in a real-world dilemna?

Can we say that if documentation did exist in this historic time

that this would alter the behavior of each Apostle?

Could we dictate that their honest and loving behaviors

that replicate that of INRI’s are truly an honest

display when they know they are being monitored into historical data?

What makes the documentation of something a significant event

and the people present? It is that it is documented.

At the first encounter with this iconic image, we ask the question of who these people are

and the bigger question, why? Why does everyone look to be concerned about the

presence of each other?

The interactions we make with the world have predisposed intentions.

This “presence” is predetermined by “reason”.

Every play that goes on within the interactions made

in life has clear components of theatricality.

The Last Supper doesn’t intend to capture a moment

In the same function that a camera does.

This is the documentation of successive moments that will lead after.

(Zoomed detail of The Last Supper, Judas gripping a bag of silver)

Jesus will be betrayed by one of his followers for the exchange

of currency. The betrayer is now valued in the form of

a payment to fulfill the duty of exposing Jesus’ identity.

This will lead to him being crucified.

Take a step further inspecting the betrayal by Judas.

What are the motives for a gathering like this and the

innate character qualities that someone portrays?

The Apostles are present to represent the ideal morality of

being involved in their religion and beliefs. The opposition

(Judas) feels no reward here other than the reward he is

paid for. Take this into the context of an early morning office meeting

that is off the clock (unpaid time). Most would choose to feel this is a burden as they

are not compensated for their efforts to be present. We would all much rather be appreciated for our

time. Judas gets this idea, he’s taking his bread where he can.

(Pun intended).

Can we really paint Judas as the

villain for ignoring his prior responsibilities?

His later actions contradict the morals he was supposed to reflect and preach.

But these later actions would have never absolved us from our sins.

Without the betrayal, Jesus’ sacrifice would not have transpired

to the broader meaning that he died for all

our past, present, and future sins to be forgiven.

At the extent of a sacrifice, our sins will be forgiven.

There seems to be no doubt that interrelationships have motivating

factors in possible events that can occur.

With each person's moral code, they fulfill a role

that serves a purpose bigger than themselves.

So why not get paid for it? Judas gets this idea.

The interrelationship we have with currency, each other, and the image

of something, is serving for a higher purpose.

Whatever this something is, is present.

Act llll: Writer’s Lament

As I have documented and critiqued such an iconic image that needs

no more discussion, I feel it’s necessary to bring forth my honest reasoning behind

the intention of writing this piece to give more

context on why it is relevant that I regurgitate a popular painting and individual (INRI).

The truth I allude to with this analysis is the underlying meaning brought

to me by an experience I had in the routine of my regular day-to-day.

In this particular experience that inspired this article, I found myself in the same

environment as a fellow human with the same interests.

I will keep their identity confidential as a way to respect their privacy

and my own.

After this minuscule interaction, one individual could not “love thy neighbor”.

One individual found the time

to take this undocumented experience into their own accord

to find a positive meaning. In this positive meaning, I have found

a way to subliminally defend my fellow friends who do not

get the “love of thy neighbor” who also have shared interests.

Why do we find the documentation of something to be so

meaningful? It is to recount an event so that the

experience does not dissipate. An indication is made that

something must be either insignificant or profound.

I have found this experience to be somewhere in between.

I play and entertain the theatrics of our being interacting

with the grander sphere of the day-to-day. Behaviors and emotions

are perceived to be performative acts, the presence of each is ever more

realized when reason, presence, and interrelationships are applied.

I have made myself available to these perspectives as a way to

“Love thy neighbor” in my subjective spiritual interpretation

and see that emotion evolve to others around me.


[1]  De Bles, A. (1925). How to Distinguish the Saints in Art by Their Costumes, Symbols, and Attributes. New York:  

             Art Culture Publications. ISBN 978-0-8103-4125-8. De Bles, A. (1925). 

[2] © 2023 Merriam-Webster, Incorporated https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apostle

[3] Ocean, Frank. “Good Guy” Blonde. Written/Performed/Conducted by Frank Ocean, Boys Don’t Cry, 2016, #

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