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John the Disciple John was the disciple whom Jesus loved best. As a close confidant, he sat by Jesus’s side at the Lord’s Supper, often leaning toward him. Cranach also depicts the two in close embrace, although each one is isolated and inward-looking, as though they could sense the coming calamity.
At Christ’s table Who are the people depicted at Christ’s table? Are they just figure studies, or are they portraits of real people? Many believe they include the printers Hans Lufft, Georg Rhau and Bartholomäus Vogel but this remains unconfirmed. However, Luther’s didactic ambitions suggest that each figure represents a specific person who was intended to be recognizable to viewers.
The Lord’s Supper Jesus has gathered with his twelve disciples for a final meal on the eve of his death. The roast lamb in the center of the table is uneaten and the silverware remains untouched. The bread that Jesus will give to his disciples has been sliced and placed on the table, but has not been broken. According to Luther, the Lord’s Supper – a phrase which he himself coined – was not to entail the breaking of bread but the distribution of the host in its place.
Judas in the yellow robe Judas, who is traditionally depicted wearing a yellow robe, is seated on the stone bench, turned toward Christ and away from the rest. Christ reaches Judas a piece of bread as though intending to place his finger in his mouth – almost as though giving his own life and limb to the sinner, signifying that God’s mercy is granted even to the sinner.
rock castle in a landscape A rock castle in a landscape that might well have been situated along the Elbe River, somewhere in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. But perhaps this motif recalls the biblical Mount Zion of Jerusalem? The rock castle is a familiar theme in many of Cranach’s works.
alongside the disciples of Christ Martin Luther also aligned himself alongside the disciples of Christ, disguised as the squire Junker Jörg. That was the name Luther adopted when the Elector of Saxony allowed Luther to be brought to Wartburg to protect him from the papal excommunication. A disciple reaches him a cup filled with wine – perhaps this is Cranach the Younger, depicting himself in the role of cupbearer in the scene?

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