Merit and Worry- Dinner Party in a Flourishing Age & the Last Supper

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Merit and Worry

- Dinner Party in a Flourishing Age & the Last Supper

There are many definitions of “flourishing age" in our present days.

In the dictionary, the first definition of “flourishing age” is a stable and thriving age, i.e. a peaceful and prosperous time. And the detailed explanation comes as follows: it is used to describe a prosperous country with a desirable level of politics and military. Looking up the words in etymology, one can find the following sentences: “a flourishing age witnesses remarkable merits that are indelible even after one thousand years” in Book of Later Han • Biography of Cui Yin and “a flourishing age is abundant in talents while a declining age lacks of talents” in Qianshu • Talent Appointment by Tang Zhen in Qing Dynasty. It can be seen that the basic features of a flourishing age are stability, prosperity, indelibleness and talents. If our present time is observed according to these features except “indelibleness”, it can be considered as a flourishing age.

Well, as an individual, one has many reasons to feel lucky - even only because we are born in this age. Thanks to the generous endowment of the age, we have more options and more leisurely life styles. Everyone is trying not to represent somebody or be represented by somebody but is seeking the harmonious coexistence of different viewpoints and ideas for the expectation of social stableness.

Wealth is actually a mirror which reflects our common work and pride of the victory over the world; Harmony and the call for it are also mirrors which show our unsolved poorness. To treat our bodies and ideas more appropriately has always been and is still one of our dreams. How to create more wealth and share it is also one of our unavoidable problems. We may not find the best answer forever, but the fact repeatedly indicates that a better answer can be expected. If wealth, including physical, technological, cultural, artistic, institutional and unclassified wealth, is the merit of our times, our worry for their continuity will be necessary.

Living in an age full of options, sometimes we also have intangible and unavoidable purposelessness. We like “party”, for example, we prepare or go to a party, especially a dinner party. A dinner party, only existing in a flourishing age, can also be regard as one of the age’s symbols. And only in a flourishing age can we have the mood to enjoy it. A dinner party means preparation, get-together and departure. As a mirror of the society, the topic in a dinner party can be a presentation of merit and crisis.

During each season in these years, or at lease these ten years, various dinner parties are held. All kinds of “grand ceremonies” in commercial or artistic field with the purpose of entertainment or charity are just like dinner parties. In the cities, people get rid of the habit of staying at home and prefer participating in parties in any season to enjoy themselves and discuss topics in larger ranges and more ways.

With so much mentioned above, we just want to sincerely state the purpose of such an exhibition or activity. People express ideas in various dinner parties, so we’d like to know if there are similar discussions in an artistic dinner party.

In addition, in an age when numerous material wealth has been continuously created, why do disasters, natural or man-made, happen one after another just as evils come out one after another when the Pandora’s box is opened. Are we on the train of “progress” and “reason” without any recession? If it is true, shouldn’t we blame for the disasters? If we have any problems, we can think about them in a different way. Then what progress have we made? ... There are too many problems and too much silence.

Another purpose is to describe some discussions about The Last Supper. Surely, The Last Supper in religious or artistic sense has always been a hot topic. Because such topic is related to man’s affairs, such as get-together, departure, devotion and betrayal...In short, it is closely related to people’s balance and imbalance. The Last Supper, one of the dinners in the ancient time, is about religion but shows man’s complex feelings through religion, which reminds us that The Last Supper is so closely linked with the dinner party of our flourishing age in some inexplicit point.

We concern about The Last Supper in art as well as the dinner party in our flourishing age as they are just two different ways to explore the same topic. We retrospect the painting - The Last Supper, and also pay attention to the change of the unchangeable things in man’s mind in the painting. In a word, we want to carry out a special exploration and intend to discuss the dinner party of our flourishing age in more special way with the expectation of returning to ourselves or talking about ourselves.

Let’s start from the painting The Last Supper with the theme of religion.

Main points of the religious story: On the eve of Pesach, Jesus and his twelve apostles were seated at the table to have a celebration dinner which was their last supper. There were thirteen people in total. During the meal, Jesus became annoyed suddenly and told his apostles that one of them would betray him; but he did not tell them the betrayer was Judas, so apostles didn’t know who would betray Jesus.

The painting The Last Supper derived from the above-mentioned Bible story which was described thorough painting by almost all the religious artists, especially those in the Middle Ages. There were 52 pieces of The Last Supper from 1000 AD and 1750 AD. The outstanding artists included Leonardo da Vinci, Bassano, Crespi, Tintoretto, Daniel Crawford and Damien Hirst, etc. (Certainly, paintings of Damien Hirst were irrelevant to the religious story). The Last Supper of Leonardo da Vinci, an eminent Italian artist, was the most famous.

He painted it directly on the wall of the dining hall at a monastery in Milan, Italy. The Apostles were seated at the table in four groups with Jesus in the center. Jesus held out his hands sorrowfully and indicated that one of them would betray him. Da Vinci’s The Last Supper specifically portrays the scene when Jesus made such a statement. By various techniques, Da Vinci vividly described the calmness and peace of Jesus as well as different postures and expressions of the twelve apostles. The painting reflects different feelings. It measures 420 × 910 centimeters. Now it is collected in Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy.

All the things the apostles saw are presented in this remarkable painting. Every time we appreciate it, we will gain new implication from their feelings and characters.

Another important artist who created Last Supper was Tintoretto.

Tintoretto was famous for The Last Supper which aroused conflict with relevant authorities. In 1573, he created The Last Supper for the dining hall of Chiesa dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo, which was considered as a restoration project for Tiziano Vecellio’s original work that was damaged in a fire in 1517. The picture was vivid in characters and rich in colors just as before. But most characters were not directly related to the theme. The church didn’t think the common elements in the picture were suitable for the holy theme. To justify himself, Tintoretto had to go to the religious jurisdiction institute for the trial on June 18, 1573. The record was saved. When being asked, “Do you think vulgar men like clown, drunkard, Germany and dwarf, etc are suitable for painting the scared Last Supper”, Tintoretto answered, “It is a freedom for an artist to complete such a large picture in a way complying with his ability.” The religious jurisdiction institute ordered him to modify the painting, but Tintoretto only changed the name from The Last Supper to Party in the House of Levi at last. Thus that matter was settled.


In fact, except da Vinci and Tintoretto, the most important representatives, many artists produced The Last Supper. For example, Ghirlandaio, a representative of early Italy Renaissance, and Dieric Bouts, a Netherlander, were influential artists in the artistic history. But we can’t continue to detail all the works. Otherwise, we may forget our original purpose. Therefore, let’s finish our journey in The Last Supper and have a look at our dinner party.

At the beginning of 2011, we discussed the “last”. Well, numerous disasters, including earthquake, war, tsunami, flood, fire and aircraft accident, occurred in 2010 in spite of increased wealth and new honor. Everyone seems to be equal in the face of disasters, neglecting sex, age and wealth. Then, what should we and can we do? What is the common aspiration for people of different classes? Shall the more influential and rich people bear more responsibilities? What are they willing to do? And what will they do? These topics are unavoidable in the dinner party of our flouring age. Thus, let’s start from such topics.

Undoubtedly, people in contemporary world are sensitive to “responsibility”. Our ability to find a reason for everything and complain about it has been our pride gradually. But the changeable nature warns us not to be so conceited due to the serious hurt caused by it and for which we can’t find any reason. Although a saying goes that man’s affair is variable, but such change becomes insignificant while compared with that of the nature. In recent years, natural disasters happened frequently. So did man-made calamities. People have to reconsider whether science, wealth and progress can bring us security.

In fact, the “feelings” of the late 20th century were influenced by some people’s helplessness sense. With ten years passing by, the situation has turned better but the problems have increased, which indicates that we’ll have no choice if we don’t upgrade our knowledge. For example, we have devoted ourselves to understanding the world in order to conquer it. But it may be more important to find the meaning of life. The first thing we can know and shall know is the arrangement of the world and the society. Our lifestyles are determined by ourselves. It is we who give meaning to our life by following our responsibility, choice and decision. In this sense, we are creating history in experiencing it.

It is true that only in an active sense can people say "we are creating the history". Maybe we should go further. Try to ask yourself why the scientific progress, no matter how wonderful it is, can’t eliminate the uncontrolled difference between the rich and the poor in a civilization or a social community. It seems that this difference can't be ignored or avoided no matter which class you actually belong to.

At present, charity is a common sense of people in the world. In fact, the subtext of the common sense is: more wealth, more responsibility for the society. This is not only an active choice, but also a natural passive one. Charity is a necessary activity in a flourishing age, especially in the current world. It is also an everlasting topic in a dinner party of our flourishing age. In other words, charity is about love and benevolence, and realizes the third distribution of social material wealth through actual voluntary donation. So, it can be said that charity is a comprehensive reflection of material, institutional and spiritual civilizations especially in a society which is rich but requires more balanced force.

We hold the exhibition about supper and promote the spirit of our age - the responsibility of charity - based on the above-mentioned thought and in the form of a dinner party.

We expect that more people will care about and participate in the exhibition. Thus, we can say confidently, “it is the real dinner party of our flourishing age instead of ‘the last supper’.”