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Last on

Sun 10 Apr 2011 13:30 BBC Radio 4

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 05 April 2010

Food writer Stefan Gates investigates what was on the menu at The Last Supper, looking at a new theory that Leonardo Da Vinci thought it was grilled eels and sliced oranges.

The controversial restoration of Leonardo's masterpiece in 1997 has raised the possibility of identifying the food on the table in the painting. Stefan journeys to Milan to find the reasons Leonardo chose to paint what he did. Along the way he uncovers a long tradition of depictions of the Last Supper, giving an insight into the way Christian attitudes to food have changed.

Though Leonardo's version is the most famous, other paintings of the Last Supper have offered unusual answers to the question "what would Jesus eat", including crayfish, roast pork and even guinea pig, all decidedly un-kosher for what is commonly understood to have been a passover meal. Other paintings of the subject like that of Paolo Veronese attracted the attention of the Inquisition for the inclusion of "dwarves and drunkards".

Stefan talks to historians of art and food and visits the Last Supper in Milan to find out more on what the paintings can tell us about our relationship with food and dining.

The producer is Russell Finch, and the programme is a Somethin Else production for BBC Radio 4.


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