“Past Belief: Visions of Early Christianity in Renaissance and Reformation Europe”

The 2014 A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, presented by Anthony Grafton at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

In “How Jesus Celebrated Passover: The Jewish Origins of Christianity”—the first of this year’s six Mellon lectures—Anthony Grafton explored a seemingly simple question: How did the Renaissance picture the Last Supper? Traditionally, painters had presented Jesus sitting at a refectory table flanked by his disciples. But gradually sixteenth-century antiquaries, through the close analysis of ancient texts, determined that people reclined at such Passover seders, lounging in a manner similar to banqueting Romans.

While tracing this conceptual breakthrough, Grafton—Putnam Professor of History at Princeton—illustrated his points with slides of famous and forgotten paintings, jokes about “foodie scholars,” and a sober discussion of the infamous “blood libel” in which Jews were accused of ritual murder. In every way, the lecture proved characteristically elegant, learned, and witty. Upcoming talks will further explore “visions of early Christianity in Renaissance and Reformation Europe.”

Sundays at 2 PM in the East Building Auditorium of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. April 6, April 13, April 27, May 4, May 11. For more information, visit nga.gov.

Category: Readings and Talks
The National Gallery of Art
4th Constitution Avenue Northwest,
Washington, DC