Revisting the Last Supper

Originally, this post was going to be simple pretty straightforward.  Today, I came across this:

Last Supper Dr Who
Artist Unknown. If you know, I would love to provide a link and credit.

This is, of course, all of the Doctors from Doctor Who re-enacting Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper.

DaVinci's Last Supper
Wikimedia Commons

When people do these, I always wonder how much thought they put into who they put where. Clearly, it would be difficult to cleanly associate all the Doctor characters with Biblical characters, but did the artist at least try in some cases?

Please understand that I write this entire post with tongue firmly in cheek and the understanding I’m really just making things up.

Also, in numbering the Doctors, I have decided to stick with the traditional numbering system, regardless of the wonkiness inserted by the 50th anniversary episode “Day of the Doctor.”

First Three on the Left / Tom Baker (#4), Patrick Troughton (#2), Jon Pertwee (#3)

I can say very little about the placements here, other than I don’t understand why Pertwee of all Doctors looks so shocked at the event.

St. Peter / Christopher Eccleston

Eccleston’s Doctor #9 plays the role of St Peter.  In the original, Peter holds a knife in reference to John 18:10, when he cuts one of the people attempting to arrest Jesus.  Here, Eccleston holds a sonic screwdriver.

If anyone is going to get into someone’s face, it’s Eccleston.  He’s angry, brooding and suspicious, and that fits well.  That is by far the best fit of the entire picture.

St. Matthew / Matt Smith

Matt Smith (Doctor #11) has turned his back on John Hurt (who I will call #8.5, as I explain in the “Day of the Doctor” post).  In Hurt’s single episode, Doctor #10 is described as the one who regrets and #11 as the one who forgets what #8.5 does.  Of course, #10 (David Tennant) doesn’t look particularly regretful.

St. John / Paul McGann

Paul McGann (#8) plays the role of St. John the Divine, the youngest of the disciples and the one falling asleep to the left of Jesus.  Maybe the logic is him shying away from John Hurt, although that’s not what St. John is doing.  Personally, I’d either put Smith there (the youngest of the actors), or Peter Davison (#5), the youngest of the original actors.

Alternatively, maybe he’s leaning to better hear Eccleston, who is, perhaps, apologizing on behalf of the other Doctors because McGann only got one story.  Also, he had to put up with Eric Roberts.

And don’t you dare tell me that’s really Mary Magdalene.  Dan Brown (author of The DaVinci Code) murders history for profit.  There is zero logic to his argument that St. John is anyone other than St. John.  Although one clever student of mine suggested that Mary Magdalene might be filling in for John because John is busy taking the picture.

There are days I love my students.

Judas / Peter Davison

Wait, what?  Granted, there’s no good candidate for Judas (in another Doctor Who Last Supper the role is given to the villainous Master, which makes way more sense, but only if you’re including things other than Doctors), but, really, sweet, unassuming Davison?

St. Jude / Colin Baker

This one makes me laugh.  Colin Baker (#6) got to play the role for a mere two years before being fired at a time when various people in the BBC were rather actively trying to get Doctor Who cancelled, which it was three years later.  St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes.

Coincidental or not, I’m sticking to that one.

Tennant, Harnell and…?

And then there the problem of numbers.  Both paintings have 13 figures in them.  Twelve of the Doctors are obvious (that’s 1-11, plus 8.5).  But there’s the question of the folks to the right of the central John Hurt.  The front one is clearly David Tennant (#10), and the one to the left of him is a not great William Hartnell (#1).  But who the hell is to the right of Tennant?

I’ve seen two guesses, but neither work well.  The first (and more logical in my mind), is that it is Peter Capaldi, who will become #12 on Christmas.  That may be why he looks like he’s kind of throwing on his clothes, which may otherwise be a play on the original figure’s posture.  But Capaldi doesn’t have white hair.  The second option is Peter Cushing, who played the Doctor in two movies.  It doesn’t really look like Cushing either, but at least he had white hair.  However, Cushing was just the movie version of William Hartnell.

Wikipedia provides a humorous description of the three original characters:

Thomas is clearly upset; the raised index finger foreshadows his Incredulity of the Resurrection. James the Greater looks stunned, with his arms in the air. Meanwhile, Philip appears to be requesting some explanation.

St. Thomas is Hartnell, who wasn’t originally written has having the power of regeneration.  They had to invent it when the actor became ill.  Regeneration is damn close to resurrection.  And the Doctor playing the role of St. Philip (Capaldi?) is perhaps asking, “Why the hell am I in this picture?  What am I supposed to be doing?”

Now I’m really stretching.  But that’s the conversation as it runs through my head.

The History Lesson

In looking at the Last Supper, you might notice a certain lack of detail, most notably on the far right.  Here, poor St. Simon is missing his face!  The painting has suffered numerous restorations, some of which involved painting new details into damaged areas.  The most recent restoration was much more conservative, generally only keeping the details of DaVinci such as they still exist.  As such, Simon lost his face during restoration because the previous face was a later addition.

Last Supper before Restoration
Image before the most recent restoration.  DaVinci used all sorts of paint on the wall that shouldn’t be used on walls, so it was deteriorating before he even finished the product.
Also, note the actual doorway cut into the bottom of the picture.  When the monastery expanded centuries later, it saw no problem just cutting into a DaVinci. (Wikipedia)

One of the points Dan Brown made about this painting was the lack of a wine glass in front of Jesus.  After all, this is when he compares bread and wine to the body and blood of Christ, right?  Nope.  This is when Jesus tells his disciples that one of them has already betrayed him.  Thus, Judas is holding his sack of thirty silver, his payment for betrayal.

Other Parodies

DaVinci is a huge target for parody.  Just Google “davinci’s last supper parody” and find things like this:

Doctor Who Dolls at Last Supper
(Big Bang Boutique)

The biggest problem here is that only 11 Doctor figures were available. As such, I have no idea who is standing between Pertwee and Troughton. Did some random action figure dude just wander in?

Also, why does Tom Baker look like he’s about to murder Jesus with a sonic screwdriver?

If you’re took lazy to Google for additional examples, you can just visit If It’s Hip, It’s Here and see 45 of them, where Jesus and the disciples are replaced by everything from Simpsons characters to sock monkeys to pandas.  Also, this:

DJ Jesus: He Died for your Spins
DJ Jesus: He Died for your Spins (Steve Yun)

1 Comment

  1. That is just brilliant!

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