My favorite part about going to the dentist is leafing through magazines I don’t normally read. I catch up on celebrity gossip, learn mind-blowing facts like Jussie Smollett played Terry Hall in “The Mighty Ducks,” note some fashion fads I will never be able to pull off (I’m looking at you, septum rings) and of course, cast my vote for “who wore it best?”
There are lots of scenes painters have portrayed throughout the years that are so important to history or so stunning or so lovely that they’ve been done many times by many artists. Let’s compare some of these and decide who painted it best. And I promise not to drill your teeth afterward!
First up: The Last Supper. One of the most painted scenes in history. There are so many renditions of it, ranker.com has a Top 24 list, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface of Last Supper paintings. Many monasteries commissioned artists to paint it in their dining halls, as was the case with da Vinci’s famous fresco. This is my favorite painting of all time, so it was hard for me to pick a comp, but I decided to go with Bassano’s depiction of Jesus’ last meal.
It seems like both scenes take place at the exact same moment- when Jesus announces someone at the table will betray Him. Didn’t He know you aren’t supposed to talk about money, politics, or betrayal of the Savior of the world in polite company?! Conversation explodes, and that is what da Vinci and Bassano capture. Look at Judas. In da Vinci’s painting, he has the guts to join the conversation, make eye contact, ask, “Who would do such a thing?” In Bassano’s rendition, Judas is sneakier, playing the “if I don’t look at them, maybe they won’t look at me” card. He’s all “Lalala. Mm, good wine!” Jerk.
Some other similarities and contrasts: John is his usual chill self in both paintings, Jesus is wearing similar garb in each, and is of course, the focus of each painting, slightly illuminated in both. The most interesting contrasts, I think, are that in da Vinci’s painting, the diners are wearing sandals (the term “flip-flop” wasn’t coined until the 1960s!), and in Bassano’s painting they are barefoot. Also, check out the animals in Bassano’s Last Supper. He was famous for his paintings of animals, and I like that he included them here. The cat symbolizes treason, the dog fidelity.
Another scene artists love to paint is that of Saint George slaying the dragon. Raphael painted the most famous portrayal of this scene. It is on the left. I picked Paulo Uccello’s depiction of the slaying for our purposes, because it is housed at the National Gallery of Art along with Raphael’s painting.
Raphael’s painting was done in 1506 and Uccello’s in 1470, but he doesn’t get points for that, since this is a scene that’s been painted since the early 11th century. Raphael shows George before he kills the dragon, the second painting shows the actual, gory action. Both feature indifferent princesses and white horses that, if you ask me, are more interesting than any of the other subjects. Whatever your opinion, I think we can all agree we imagined the dragon to be bigger.
The last piece in our “Who Painted it Best?” contest is not a painting at all. But we have to do it, you guys- we have to talk David. Like our previous artworks, these Davids capture a similar moment in time, if not the exact same moment. Donatello’s David includes Goliath’s head, so obviously this is immediately following the fight (if you can call it that). Michelangelo’s David is still holding his pebbles, so we assume this is right before he attacks the giant.
I have a clear favorite, though both are incredible. Donatello’s sculpture gets mad props for being the first free-standing nude of the Renaissance, and the first done in bronze. Very brassy, Donatello! It also differs in that Donatello outfitted David in boots and a… hat? I mean- okay, whatever. Michelangelo’s David is completely naked, much bigger, and (in my opinion) more David-y. Or how I imagine David, anyway. Youthful, but pensive; scared, but courageous; humble, but faithful.
Do you have a thought or opinion on who painted (or sculpted) these pieces best? I’d love to hear what you think!
Note: It cannot go without saying: I finally (unintentionally!!) put all four ninja turtle namesakes into one post!!