One of the most famous events painted by artists is, without a doubt, the Last Supper.  In these paintings, Jesus’ last supper with his disciples is depicted, with plenty of food shown.  Among this are a main course, bread, as well as plates.  Using new technology, researchers were able to compare the differences of portions in the paintings, including the size of the plates.  In a thousand-year period, the portion sizes depicted have continuously increased as time went on, with an overall increase of 69% in the main course, 23% in the bread loaf size, and 66% in the plate size.  Interestingly enough, the most common descriptions in the Bible of the Last  Supper include only wine and bread, however many depictions include many other foods, especially fish.

The paintings will often use symbolism, which would explain fish being a common addition to the meal due to the miracles Jesus completed involving fish, as well as it being a symbol of Christianity.  There are many reasons why portion sizes may have increased in these paintings, as well as many questions as to why.  Did the artists realize they were increasing the portion sizes?  Did they perhaps do it unconsciously due to an increased amount in their own diets?  It may be impossible to ever know, but with improved technologies it appears that we can answer many questions that could not have been answered before.


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    March 2010



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