- Andy Warhol
- The Last Supper
- stamped with the artist's signature and inscribed I certify that this is an original painting by Andy Warhol completed by him in 1986 Frederick Hughes on the overlap
- acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
Estate of Alexander Iolas (acquired from the above)
Sotheby's New York, May 5, 1994, Lot 196 (consigned by the above)
Acquired by the present owner from the above
Hailed as a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo’s The Last Supper marks a pinnacle of artistic achievement and is a paradigm of one-point linear perspective. One-point linear perspective was innovative in that it articulated space and depth in a two-dimensional plane, and here draws viewers’ attention to a single vanishing point around the central figure of Christ. In his rendition of Leonardo’s masterpiece, Warhol nullifies this technical triumph, compressing Leonardo’s trompe l’oeil and insisting upon its flatness via the process of silkscreening and the application of the camouflage pattern, which, inherently, is entirely flat. Warhol’s technique of appropriating familiar imagery through serial reproduction separates the image from its original source material, eventually degrading a painting as revered and sublime as Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper to a banal picture no different than a quotidian advertisement in a magazine.
Warhol has also brought his own pop sensibility to the camouflage, foregoing the traditional olives, forest greens and tans for vivid hues of bubblegum pink and blood red. Biomorphic forms of shocking pink and deep red swim languorously across the surface, invigorating an otherwise black and white reproduction, but doing little to veil or obscure Christ’s final meal with his disciples. Warhol first addressed The Last Supper in 1986 through a variety of paintings. Ranging in size and execution, and often accompanied by logos of commercial brands such as Dove Soap and Wise Potato Chips, this limited output inspired the astute gallerist Alexander Iolas to commission a series of additional silkscreens treating the same subject matter.
Warhol grew up in a deeply Catholic household, and, according to his brother John Warhol, an image of The Last Supper hung in the family’s kitchen in Pittsburgh, portending an eventual treatment of this nostalgic image. The son of first-generation immigrants and profoundly religious parents, Warhol frequently attended services at St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Church. Crucifixes, icons and all manner of religious imagery would have been inescapable, impressing upon the young Warhol the irrevocable marriage between religion and art. That he would eventually return to this specific subject matter in the years right before his death is perhaps coincidental, yet reveals that Warhol’s persona as aloof, detached and obsessed with money, fame and celebrity belied a deeper-seated piety. Warhol’s late examination of one of the most quintessential scenes in Christianity accompanied the artist’s fascination with camouflage, which also became a particularly significant motif in his later years. Bob Colacello, the artist’s long time assistant wrote, “The Camouflage paintings were the culmination of both his lifelong need to disguise himself and his career-long quest to come up with an abstract art that would make the anti-Pop mandarins of the New York art world look at his work in a more favorable light.” (Bob Colacello, “Andy Warhol, Abstraction and the Camouflage Paintings,” in Exh. Cat., New York, Gagosian Gallery, Camouflage, 1997, p. 7) The present example combines Warhol’s obsession with fame in the ultimate celebrity of Christ, religious and spiritual inclinations, preoccupation with death and fierce commitment to mass production. It can also be read as a clever and elegiac self-portrait, in which Warhol attempts to conceal his religious devotion with the mass-produced, wholesale camouflage. Contemplative, ironic, and conflating two of the artist’s latest visual vocabularies before his untimely death, The Last Supper poetically consummates Warhol’s prolific career that began and ended in religion.