"The Sacrament of the Last Supper" was painted by Salvador Dali in 1955 - at the height of the so-called "nuclear mystical period" in the artist's career, when Dali actively created paintings imbued with the spirit of high religiosity, combining the classical biblical tradition with the ultra-modern achievements of contemporary science ...
"The Last Supper" is one of the most famous "nuclear mystical" works by Salvador Dali. Today this monumental painting (167 X 267 cm, oil, canvas) can be seen at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
In the late forties, Dali, who returned from the United States to Francoist Spain, widely declared that he was "Catholic to the core", which, however, few believed. The artist himself, closer to the end of his life, admitted that he could not become a true believer.
However, this did not prevent Salvador Dali from creating artworks that were amazing in terms of their impact on the viewer and the power of religious feelings. Let us recall his statement that a "non-believing genius" is more useful for religion than a "believing mediocrity" - and as far as art is concerned, Dali was obviously right.
It took him about three months to paint this masterpiece - and Isidro Bea, a theater artist from the province of Lleida, provided him with very significant assistance in the creation of The Last Supper. We mention this for a reason: in the future, Bea will "participate" in the process of creating of Dali's canvases until the early 80s - that is, his collaboration with Dali will last almost 30 years.
By the way, in the last works of Dali, when the mustachioed genius himself practically could not paint, Bea's participation in the artworks of the Maestro becomes especially noticeable. As a sought-after theatrical artist, Bea had an excellent command of perspective and "the technique of enlarging any small picture to a huge size." Considering the size of "The Last Supper" and other, even more monumental paintings by Dali, he turned out to be an absolutely irreplaceable assistant for Salvador.
By the way, it was "The Last Supper" that became the very canvas, for which a special device was installed in Dali's workshop, with which the painting could be raised or lowered into the floor slit.
The painting "The Last Supper" can and should be perceived as a modern interpretation of the famous work by Leonardo da Vinci. Christ and the twelve apostles are placed in the interior in the form of a regular dodecahedron - this is the name of one of five possible regular polygons. The dodecahedron has 12 faces, so the artist's choice of this particular geometric construction is not accidental: each face of the dodecahedron corresponds to one of the apostles.
In addition, already in antiquity, the dodecahedron was considered a symbol of the sky - the very one to which Christ is to ascend to the God-Father who awaits him. Christ himself in the lower part of the body becomes almost transparent - an indication that he is getting closer to his heavenly essence, that is, eternal life. God the Father, also executed in the characteristic hyperrealistic manner of Dali, is depicted above, with outstretched arms embracing heaven and earth.
As for the landscape of "The Last Supper" - we see the same view that is present in dozens of other paintings by the artist - these are the rocks surrounding the bay of Port Lligata, on the banks of which the famous Dali house is located. When we come with excursions to Port Lligat, we find ourselves inside the paintings of Dali - a very strong feeling, especially when you experience it for the first time!
It is interesting to note that the arrangement of their figures is absolutely symmetrical in relation to the figure of Christ. In fact, one half of the picture mirrors the other. When painting The Last Supper, Dali often remembered with a kind word his friend the poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who, according to Dali, once told him that "the apostles are symmetrical" like the wings of a butterfly.
At one time, the painting "The Last Supper" was scolded in the same way as many other paintings by Dali on the theme of religion. In the same way, it was called trivial, banal and even vulgar. Not the least role in this perception, I repeat, was played by the fact that Dali's newfound religiosity under the Franco dictatorship, where religion again became a matter of state importance, seemed to many to be thoroughly false - and to a large extent, perhaps, it was.
But the years passed, the political storms of that distant time died down, the context disappeared (or, in any case, pretty much covered with dust), and only the painting "The Sacrament of the Last Supper" remained. And, looking at it, don't you want to exclaim: it is beautiful?
The authors of the article are Sergei Zakharov and his wife, colleague and comrad-in-arms, Tatiana - writers and tour guides. You can learn more about our books and buy them in the "Where and what to read" section. We invite you to our tours of the Dali museums in Catalonia. Revealing secrets, debunking myths, telling the truth - we promise full and deep immersion in the amazing Universe of Salvador Dali!