There are many Old Master paintings that show a masterful use of composition: Rembrandt's The Night Watch, El Greco's The Burial Of The Count Of Orgaz, Velazquez' Las Meninas, to name just a few. But for some reason it's Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper, a 29ft fresco on the wall of the dining room of the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, that is endlessly riffed on in pop culture. Don't believe us? We've gathered a few of the best examples of these re-imaginings below...
Robert Altman's 1970 satire of the Korean War saw the cast arranged in a tableau reflecting the Last Supper, with Dr Waldowski (John Schuck) taking the place of Jesus at the centre of the table. Waldowski is the company's dentist, and has been driven to despair by a "lack of performance" with a visiting nurse. He decides to commit suicide and consults Donald Sutherland's Hawkeye on the most appropriate method. Hawkeye recommends a black pill, and Waldowski hosts this Last Supper before downing it and, he thinks, dying. Of course, it's only a sleeping pill, and a new nurse soon addresses his worries. So a Last Supper with a happy ending (in both senses), which is probably deeply wrong (in every sense).
A promo picture created ahead of the fourth (and final) series of Ronald D. Moore's storming reimagining of Battlestar Galactica, this is one of the most analysed versions of a Last Supper. Everything from the positioning of the characters at the table to the items they're holding was analysed and dissected by fans; even the empty seat is significant, nodding to the missing Final Cylon who was yet to be unveiled. As an example of the layers here, Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) and President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) are kept far apart - by duty! - but are turned towards one another - by love! - and she's burning something, which links to events later in the series. Even that goblet by the empty space is a clue about the Final Cylon. That Moore guy is clever.
Zack Snyder's film version of Alan Moore's seminal graphic novel has its detractors, but it takes a real iconoclast to find much wrong with its opening credit flash through costumed vigilante history - and it's that section that includes this nod to the Last Supper. The heavily pregnant Silk Spectre (Carla Gugino) takes the central spot (controversial?) and the Comedian is, appropriately enough, in the Judas position. There have been multiple fan-created Last Suppers with other superhero line-ups - notably the Justice League and X-Men - but those have yet to appear in any of their films. Avengers 2, it's up to you.
The episode "Thank God It's Doomsday" from season 16 of The Simpsons is rife with religious imagery both sacred and profane. Well, mostly profane, what with Jesus hanging about on a swingset and God the Father talking about a "deux ex machina". The episode finishes, however, with God in his heaven and all right in Springfield, epitomised by the sight of a restored Moe's Tavern (it briefly became a sushi joint) hosting a Last Supper-alike line up. Barney appears to be the John figure here; just look at those soulful eyes.
Whenever we think of religious icons, figures far above common humanity, chances are we're thinking of some members of The Expendables - hence, we suppose, the barmy-but-brilliant poster. Sly is, naturally, front and centre; lone female presence Maggie (Nan Yu) takes the position of John (which Dan Brown and others argue is secretly a painting of a woman); Gunnar (Dolph Lundgren), who betrayed the team last time, is Judas; Chuck Norris' Booker plays right-hand-man Peter; Jason Statham's Lee Christmas is therefore reduced to James Major. It hardly matters. The important thing is that they all have lots of weapons on hand. It's what Jesus would want. Right?
David Chase’s seminal gangster drama not only paved the way for the likes of Deadwood, The Wire, Six Feet Under and Game Of Thrones, but also for the recurring trend of Last Supper promotional shots for turn of the 21st century TV shows. Photographed by the legendary Annie Leibovitz, this New Jersey crime family photo was released just before the programme’s second season. As for the set-up, the positions of the characters neatly balance the two sides of Tony’s life – on his right there’s his family, and on his left there’s his... other family. You can see how this gets pretty complicated.
Keen House M.D. fans will be able to date this reasonably accurately after a quick glance. It has to be the third season; by the fourth, Cameron and Foreman have politely declined to work for House any more and Chase has been forcibly removed from the team. Cleverly, the person in the Judas position – kind of – is Chase, who just happens to be the fella House fires. Other lovely little touches are House’s gloves, and the fact he’s doing surgery, which perfectly justifies his otherwise Jesus-like pose. The group of three disinterested medical folk on the far right and the more intrigued trio on the far left match the original rather neatly. One of the cleverest twists on the original as far as we're concerned, which makes it appropriate for the clever-clever medicine man.
Ron English is the brand-centric US artist who’s previously brought us ‘Abraham Obama’, a mix of honest Abe and hopeful Barack, Marilyn Monroe with Mickey Mouse breasts and, as you’ll see from his ‘Morgan’s Last Supper’ here, the four presidents from Mount Rushmore made from old comics. Having previously worked with Morgan Spurlock on a poster for 2004’s Supersize Me – which saw a bloated Ronald McDonald wearing a dollar sign on a chain around his neck, echoed on the far right here – he collaborated with the moustachioed documentarian for this promo for POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. By the way, can you spot the bottle of POM Wonderful in this poster? Five Empire points if you do…
In early January 2010, just before the final series of everyone's favourite how-the-what-the-whodunnwhat-the-hell was revealed to the world, most of the surviving cast members gathered around the wing of a plane to stare at John Locke (Terry O’Quinn) in a possibly significant way. The resulting series of snaps may have been marred by bad background lightning, obviously fake props and the decaying Dharma Initiative, but it still prompted the diehard fans who had stuck with Lindelof and co.’s question mark distribution service to freak the hell out. Why was Ilana the bounty hunter at the end of the table? Claire’s back, but why? Sayid is in the Judas position – will he betray Locke? Is Locke Jesus? In the end, it didn’t really matter, but at this point, they had us by the nosehairs – and they knew it.
In the third episode of the thirteenth season of South Park, Trey Parker and Comedy Central gave us ‘Margaritaville’, a show that satirised the ongoing global recession and how the industrialised west was making a right hash of fixing it. And lo, LOLs were LOL-ed. Portraying capitalism (and the economy in general) as a religion, and making Kyle its savior, it made sense to set up the gang in a Da Vinci-esque pose, but why Ike looks so damn happy God only knows. As you’d expect – and probably demand if it weren’t the case – Cartman is in the Judas position, with the food consisting of pizza and the setting an arcade. Now who fancies a game of Whack A Duck?
Not that long ago, in a galaxy surprisingly close to where you are now, artist Eric Deschamps created a painting for Giant Magazine, taking characters from the Star Wars universe and placing them into a Last Supper pose. Fast forward to February 2012 and engineer-cum-photo manipulator Avinash Arora has turned Deschamps’ work into a photo mosaic – for the second time, by the way – replacing his brushstrokes with screengrabs from the actual films themselves. The resulting jpg is a 10.6 megabyte monster, with only a contracted version on show here – to see it in all its nerdy glory, click this way but bear in mind… even in super high-res, there’s no Artoo hiding under the table. Sorry about that.
In the third episode of its first season, the sitcom that brought the world Topher Grace, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher went ahead and not only broke the fourth wall – getting everyone to sit on one side of a table, facing the camera, carries that risk – but committed the tiniest bit of sacrilege with this tableau. What’s worse, the episode was called ‘Streaking’ and involved quite a lot of, um, streaking – which we're pretty sure is not given the all-clear in either Testament of the Good Book. But it also found time to sneak in a joke about how food in ‘70s US public schools was cheap and nasty - which Jesus probably would have sympathised with. Covering all bases, these guys.