Thursday, April 5, 2012

Last Supper Art or Outrage?

The Diocese of Würburg, Germany will permanently display a portrayal of the Last Supper by Henning von Glerken in its Cathedral Museum. This contemporary homage to Da Vinci’s Last Supper depicts six women and two children among the dozen apostles. Three adults and all the children are completely naked and one figure has a bare torso. The place for the Savior is not shown, but when visitors sit on a bench, their face is projected on the wall in the place of the Christ.

The director of the art museum, Fr. Jürgen Lenssen, defends the naked figures as being a correct expression of the “wounds of people”. Lenssen praised von Glerken’s triptych as it symbolizes different situations of life. According to Lenssen, “[T]he last supper is anywhere a celebration of life takes place.”

News reports have spuriously claimed that von Glerken’s work received the full approval of Pope Benedict XVI, but if so, what was the Vatican thinking.

Regardless of a papal indult, von Glerken’s opus does raise aesthetic and theological questions. Is this artwork or obscenity? Should the Diocese of Würburg be displaying this work? Is the Last Supper anywhere that a “celebration of life” takes place? How does von Gleken’s Last Supper compare vis-à-vis Leondardo da Vinci’s masterpiece? What does von Gleken’s Last Supper mean to you?

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