Supersizing the Last Supper

I haven’t had much chance to think about art over the past two days – which is ironic, because I’m busy prepping for an online course in contemporary art. Instead of thinking about Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, though, I’ve been battling with my computer over technology/formatting issues for my recorded lectures. Bah.

Anyhow, today two friends sent me variants of the same article (see here and here), and I welcomed the distraction (thanks, Kiersten and Rachsticle!). The articles discuss an unusual study which revolves around the food portions, particularly those in depictions of the Last Supper. Two brothers, Brian and Craig Wansink, analyzed and compared Last Supper scenes over the course of 1,000 years (including one of my favorite paintings, Last Supper by Tintoretto (1592-94, shown above)). The researchers used the heads of the figures as a basis for comparison, and then measured the size of plates and entrees accordingly. As a result, it was discovered that the portions for meals increased gradually over 1,000 years: entrees increased by 70% and bread grew by 23%. Incidentally, the size of plates also grew by 65.6%.
Pretty interesting stuff. It looks like industrial farming and fast food chains are not solely responsible for the size of today’s food portions. Instead, portions seem to be a product of history. And hooray that art could help with the research for this project! Once again, art comes to the rescue!

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This blog focuses on making Western art history accessible and interesting to all types of audiences: art historians, students, and anyone else who is curious about art. Alberti’s Window is maintained by Monica Bowen, an art historian and professor.