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Salvador Dali’s Sacrament of the Last Supper is possibly more popular than the iconic fresco of the same theme painted by Leonardo DaVinci. In fact, Dali loved the fact that sales records indicated, even during his own time, that reproductions of his Last Supper outsold virtually every other modern painting.

I’ve seen this painting about half a dozen times at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Each time I do, I’m moved by a sense of the miraculous. Not only in terms of the spirituality and mystery intrinsic to this work, but in terms of Dali’s brilliance as a painter. Dali himself was not modest about the job he’d done, stating he felt it was one hundred times better “than all of Picasso’s works put together!”

Ironically, the man who commissioned Dali’s religious masterpiece, Chester Dale, also made a public statement comparing the two Spanish contemporaries: “I consider Picasso a very great painter,” Dale said. “I have fifteen of his canvases in my collection. But never will he paint a picture to equal Dali’s Cena (Last Supper) for the very simply reason that he is not capable of doing so.”

Believing that the number “12” was “paranoiacly sublime,” Dali painted the backdrop as a dodecahedron – a 12-sided figure. The number 12 figures in as Christ’s 12 apostles, the 12 signs of the zodiac, the 12 months of the year, etc. Dali believed that the Communion must be symmetrical, thus giving rise to the strict symmetry of the work, with each apostle on the left a virtual mirror image of his counterpart on the right.

The overall feeling of spirituality and mysticism is achieved through the transparency of the Christ figure, appearing as if he could be rising from the sea, and of the dodecahedron. Dali’s blond, beardless and otherwise unconventional depiction of Jesus set skeptical fingers wagging when the large painting was unveiled on Easter, 1955. Some presumed – in shock, but erroneously – that Gala posed for Christ! In fact, a male model sat for the artist.

The large male torso at the top of this canvas may be interpreted at least three ways: as the Holy Spirit; the ascension of Christ; or perhaps God the Father, watching over all, his face not to be seen.

If ever the word “perfect” were to be assigned to just one of Dali’s masterworks, The Sacrament of the Last Supper may be the one.

on Friday, July 8th, 2011 at 12:56 pm and is filed under Dalinian. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.