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Supersizing the "Last Supper" 98

gandhi_2 writes "A pair of sibling scholars compared 52 artists' renditions of 'The Last Supper', and found that the size of the meal painted had grown through the years. Over the last millennium they found that entrees had increased by 70%, bread by 23%, and plate size by 65.6%. Their findings were published in the International Journal of Obesity. From the article: 'The apostles depicted during the Middle Ages appear to be the ascetics they are said to have been. But by 1498, when Leonardo da Vinci completed his masterpiece, the party was more lavishly fed. Almost a century later, the Mannerist painter Jacobo Tintoretto piled the food on the apostles' plates still higher.'"


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Supersizing the "Last Supper"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:41PM (#31585450)

    In his portrait the fries are all supersized, when many historians note that apostles were much more likely to order from the dollar menu.

    • Everyone knows that the apostles ordered Filet o' Fish! C'mon!

      • Not on friday.

        • I thought it was only on friday?

          • If you're willing to try my patent-pending system, I can have your deities and their direct descendants consuming less calories in just days, not weeks! You'll see the pounds melt before your eyes! Are you tired of worshipping overweight idols? Time to put Buddha on a treadmill? Just send me cash or money order and you will begin receiving my special deity diet plan with no further commitment!

            Seriously, folks, I'm glad someone is doing this important research.

        • by dzfoo ( 772245 )

          Especially on Friday (though not on Good Friday).

          On Easter they go out for Paella.


        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          But the Last Supper was on Thursday.

      • by pgdave ( 1774092 )
        In Cusco, Peru, the cathedral has a picture of JC and his mates eating guinea pig for their last supper. Da Vinci obviously got it wrong.
    • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:50PM (#31585620) Homepage

      Historians were also both pleased and horrified by the recent unearthing of a rendition of the Last Supper by Michaelangelo. While the portion sizes are closer to what is believed to be accurate, the painting also features such embellishments as a kangaroo, twenty eight disciples, and three Christs.

      However the card attached to the painting is actually labeled "The Penultimate Supper", and historians must admit there are no records of how many people attended that gathering.

      • by 517714 ( 762276 )
        It was a wallaby
      • I'll tell you what you want, mate...you want a bloody photographer, not a creative artist with some imagination!!
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        for the complete transcript you can either read the next 72 posts (undoubtedly they will quote the entire skit) or you can look here:


  • Worthless article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IICV ( 652597 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:43PM (#31585498)

    That article was worthless. It's about a series of paintings, and yet the only picture is of some athlete in the side column.

    If this is the current standard of quality in newspapers, no wonder they're a dying breed.

    tl;dr: relevant pics or gtfo!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rei ( 128717 )

      There were no pictures in the paper [mindlesseating.org], either.

      • by IICV ( 652597 )

        Yes, but that's a scientific paper printed in a black-and-white journal, where space is frequently at a premium. I would relevant expect pictures in a presentation poster (if they have one, I don't know how common that is in their field) or a website (and indeed, there are pictures on the mindlesseating.org website). It's all a matter of providing appropriate content for the context, something newspaper failed to do. I mean seriously, did nobody over there realize that having a couple hundred words about re

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A less worthless article can be found here:
      http://www.mindlesseating.org/lastsupper/ [mindlesseating.org]

    • That article was worthless. It's about a series of paintings, and yet the only picture is of some athlete in the side column.

      Damn you copyright laws!!!

      • by IICV ( 652597 )

        I know, those goddamn copyright laws that still apply over a thousand years after the painting was made! Damn them!

  • This story proves tow things: The first is obviously that size matters when it comes to food. And the second which is slightly more deep: Slashdot is indeed about stuff that matters... sometimes. Food!
  • Leonardo's Last Supper is not exactly what most of us would describe as a pig-out. We see about one bread roll for each disciple and two or three dishes of what looks like some undetermined Indian takeaway, washed down with a few glasses of red wine. Big deal.
    • Re:Sparrow food (Score:5, Informative)

      by JustinKSU ( 517405 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @01:06PM (#31585876)
      The last supper is thought to have been a Passover Sedar [wikipedia.org]. This would mean, if possible, there would have been many kinds of foods, but not in large quantities.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        This would have been their idea of a feast. The fact that an Italian interpretation 1500 years later doesn't "get it" is not surprising. The fact that a scholar of any sort 2000 years later fixates on it is somewhat absurd.

        Substitute "last supper" with "thanksgiving" and you will have something resembling a proper cultural context. Then contemplate your comparisons.

      • Yes, but the discussion is about "increasing" size of meals in artistic representations. Leonardo shows us very few dishes in his painting. Furthermore, he obviously has no interest in biblical scholarship, since the Passover Seder is supposed to involve unleavened bread. The bread rolls we see in his painting seem unusually (though not impossibly) plump for something produced without the assistance of yeast.
      • Passover seders usually have an abundance of food. But, of course, not bread, but matzo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matzo [wikipedia.org]
      • There also would have been unleavened bread, unlike in Da Vinci's rendition.
  • by Zumbs ( 1241138 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:53PM (#31585670) Homepage
    ...I wanted to give the impression of a real last supper. You know, not just any old last supper. Not like a last meal or a final snack. But you know, I wanted to give the impression of a real mother of a blow-out, you know?
  • Heads (Score:3, Funny)

    by Kell Bengal ( 711123 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:57PM (#31585738)

    Using the size of the diners' heads as a basis for comparison, the Wansinks used computers to compare the sizes of the plates in front of the apostles, the food servings on those plates and the bread on the table.

    Maybe people's heads have just been getting smaller? It would sure explain a lot.

    • Actually, meant as a joke but perhaps not without a grain of truth. We know, for instance, that the renaissance period was when the trend to more realistic artistic interpretations really began to gain momentum. Can we automatically assume that the scale of the heads in paintings from the middle ages weren't slightly oversized?
  • This looks to me like an attempt to win an ignoble prize. Just like this one, which was an actual winner: http://improbable.com/ig/2002/scrotal-asymmetry.pdf [improbable.com] "Scrotal Asymmetry in Man and in Ancient Scupture"
    • This looks to me like an attempt to win an ignoble prize.

      No it just looks like an attempt to get a scientific paper published with doing as little work as possible.

      "My plan is to take a ruler to some old paintings and then publish the findings! Oh I can't get access to the works? Well then I'll just use google images and measure them with my com-pu-tor! Prize money please!"

  • by clone53421 ( 1310749 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @01:20PM (#31586094) Journal

    It also depicts them as a bunch of white guys.

    No, I’m not suggesting that Jesus was black. But he probably wasn’t white.

    • No, I'm not suggesting that Jesus was black. But he probably wasn't white.

      Not black, nor white... then what's left? Are you saying Jesus was oriental?

      Suddenly this legend [bbc.co.uk] starts to make sense!

    • It also depicts them as a bunch of white guys.
      No, I'm not suggesting that Jesus was black. But he probably wasn't white.

      How many black guys would you have seen in a European congregation circa AD 1000?

      Ecclesiastical art has two roots:

      It illustrated and taught the Biblical narrative to an audience that could not read Hebrew, Latin or Greek. It engaged the laity even more directly by commissioning works from local artists and craftsman, whose work is most vital and appealing when it is closest to their own e

  • The painting was made in the dining room of a monastery in the first place. Its not surprise that extra food would be added...
  • Artistic License. The artists at the time were portraying this painting in their own eye, during times that when food was increasing in supply. Same deal with Rockwell and his work.

    This is a riot that a obesity study group would try to connect the lines between historic and religious art with obesity. That is rather like trying to associate American League Football with blood sports.

  • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:05PM (#31586842) Journal

    Beginning early in the 2d Millennium, the Catholic Church started burning many true ascetics (e.g., the Cathars) as heretics. (They of course then expanded the powers of the Inquisition to include, well, anyone their twisted logic could rationalize to oppress.)

    No doubt this led to a change in the way people perceived heroes from religious history. Da Vinci may never have even considered the idea that an apostle was an ascetic. The Inquisition was in full force, and in charge of most of the governments and virtually all of the churches of Europe, when he painted that picture.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I wouldn't say that the ascetic nature of the Cathars was the main factor for their prosecution - sure, the dualistic nature of their creed, damning everything material, which led to their rather ascetic lifestyle was a factor, but their excommunication and prosecution was mostly founded in the fact that they established the first serious counter-church. They called themselves the "True Christians" after all. The prime motivation was therefore political rather than dogmatic, at least in my opinion. The chur
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by blair1q ( 305137 )

        The church demonized the Cathars' practices. In doing so, they couldn't help but give asceticism a stigma, and to marginalize it. (NB for other readers: the Cathars were Christ worshippers who took any bodily pleasure as sinful, to the point that any sensation at all could be so. Eating food, even just touching another human being on the skin, was eschewed by the Perfecti, those who took on the ultimate rite of the Cathars. These people were, in a word, nuts. But the Catholics were more nuts, and paranoid

        • Oh, I completely agree that the prosecution of the Cathars left a stigma on ascetic practice - the tolerated ascetics after that were indeed mostly on the fringe of the church. How far asceticism really could have grown to become a core tenet of catholicism at this point is open for discussion in my opinion. Personally, I think the church was set on its way earlier. The strong ascetic lines of belief probably lost their chance to power in the early consolidation of dogma and canonical law up to the Council
          • I have to admit, though, that my recollection of early Christian heresies is flaky these days, so correct me should I be wrong.

            Well it has been quite some time. Nice to see you're keeping active.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Cathars? Oh, it gets worse. The actual last supper was a seder.

    • I think your facts about persecution are a little off; Thomas de Torquemada, the man responsible for the Spanish inquisition (bet you didn't expect that) was an ascetic, and was a contemporary of Leonardo. There may be different ideas about what exactly an ascetic was, but certainly St Francis of Assisi must be considered one, the guy walked barefoot everywhere, and he was certainly accepted by the catholic church.

      It may be hard for someone who hasn't been involved in religion to understand, but not all
    • Asceticism declined after Aquinas put Catholic theology on an Aristotelian basis (contra the more dualistic Platonism of Augustine). This revalued matter and nature in theology, which changed from being something generally inimical to the contemplative and spiritual life to something generally supportive of, and in cases conducive to it; this became the foundation for art and science moving forward. If we had a Slashdot poll, "What idea created western civilisation", this would get my vote. As a side-effect

  • The researchers are, I think onto something here, but not what everyone seems to think. I saw this story carried on another site originally, and so I am willing to give it more credit than I would a typical "Idle" story... having read TFA, I suggest this merits our attention. The implication of the article is that it has to do with obesity, and although there may exist a very distant relationship, I don't think the obesity connection is what we should consider.
    No, I think it may be a function of the am
  • A probably OT point on etymology - but why is it that in the USA that the main course is called the "entrée"? The first time I had dinner in the USA it had me momentarily confused because you'd expect the "entrée" to be the starter, not the main course (in French, the "entrée" is the starter).

  • Why is this here? Is it that anything with a little math is considered worthy of /.? So if I made an article which compares breast implant trends from the 60's to now as long as I used math it would make it here?
    • Actually, it probably would.
    • So if I made an article which compares breast implant trends from the 60's to now as long as I used math it would make it here?

      Well, sure, as long as you posted your math.

      And pictures. Lots of pictures.

      This is, after all, Slashdot, where we simply could not just take your word for it and I, for one, would feel compelled to replicate your findings.

  • God, I pray that none of our tax dollars funded this.
    • God beware that we as a society pursue a diverse set of scholarly inquiries. The horror, the horror....Rather funnel more of that cash to Haliburton.
  • And his feet were the size of halibut. Or so the guy at Got Medieval [blogspot.com] says.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"