Blackpaint 220


Taking a break from Michelangelo for a week or two – not that I’ve exhausted him as a topic, but “What do they know of England who only England know?”, as someone – Kipling, was it? – once said.  So, following on from the “Virgin of the Rocks”, I thought I’d look at Leonardo’s “Last Supper”, in the Refectory (appropriately) at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.

Jesus has just announced to the diners that one of them will betray him and there is general consternation.  In any Last Supper, of course, the two main characters are Jesus and Judas; Jesus is, I think, always portrayed centre table and in Leonardo’s, Judas is two seats to his right – although Peter is leaning across to talk to John, making Judas effectively third on Christ’s right.  I wonder, is there some convention about the seating of the disciples, or do they go wherever the painter decides?  And has there ever been a depiction of the scene looking from one end of the table, with the disciples around it and Christ at the top?

Anyway, Judas has to be prominent, so that his guilt (a moneybag usually, and some positional difference from the others) can be signalled.  Leonardo’s depiction was the first in post-Medieval times to have Judas behind the table with the others.  He is clutching his bag of silver and recoiling in shock –  apparently in the act of reaching for a bread roll.  I read somewhere that he was sometimes depicted with red hair, to distinguish him as the betrayer.  From the poor state of repair of the fresco, I can’t tell whether or not Leonardo has followed this convention.

The Sperm Pipe

The second work by da Vinci to draw my attention today was the drawing of the act of sexual intercourse, in which the side view of the male in section shows a tube running from the brain directly to the penis.  The male is shown as a person (see below) whilst only the female sexual parts are depicted.  It was thought at the time that sperm was produced in the brain and flowed from there down to the penis by way of this pipe.  Given that images arising in the brain contribute to the erection of the penis, this seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable hypothesis in the absence of physical evidence and can therefore be cited as an early example of Blackpaint’s Law of Spurious Plausibility (Blackpaint 217 and 165).

Bram Bogart

Looking at his “Untitled” 1956, ink on watercolour paper, couldn’t help noticing resemblance to those Chinese gunpowder paintings by Cai Guo-Kiang – it’s in “Intensely Dutch” by Hendrik Kolenberg, Art Gallery NSW 2009.

Van Gogh

While I’m on Holland, ploughing on through the Taschen 2 volume, complete VG.  In 1885, he painted portraits of 19 peasant women in white caps, 15 peasant women in dark caps, one in a red cap, two in green shawls, one in “greenish lace” and 11 with bare heads.  Only four portraits of men, though – two in caps, one with a pipe and one with a cap and pipe.  That’s just the portraits – others show work and eating, for instance, the famous “Potato Eaters”.



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