The Supper at Emmaus, by Jacopo Pontormo

March 20, 2017
image of artwork
Photo © Scala / Ministero per i Beni e le Attività culturali / Art Resource, NY

In his 1525 depiction of the Supper at Emmaus, the Late Italian Renaissance painter Jacopo Pontormo (1494–1557) portrays the moment that Christ blesses the bread. The Lukan narrative tells how the resurrected Christ makes himself known to his followers through the breaking of bread in the obscure locale of Emmaus (24:13–35). Pontormo selects the moment before that revelation. One disciple gazes at Christ blessing the loaf, while the other concentrates on pouring red wine. Christ stares at the viewer, as do the onlookers behind him, the contemporary Carthusians of the Certosa del Galluzzo outside Florence for whom the picture was painted. There is not yet recognition by the disciples. In typical Pontormo fashion, the figures are pushed to the foreground, and realistic details are visible, such as the naked feet of the disciples, heads of cats, and a puppy in the lower left corner. The eye of God watches over the event.