Evelyn Hofer

Jesus, Lenin and Mr. Peanut dominate the fantastic clutter of Andy Warhol’s Manhattan studio, the loft of Andy Warhol Enterprises, known as the “Factory.” While Warhol used commercial trademarks as subjects for many of the paintings scattered about the room, the largest canvas, tacked to the back wall, is based on Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (1490s). Although Warhol includes only three figures from the 15th-century painting—Jesus, St. Thomas and St. James (each depicted twice)—he carefully adapted Leonardo’s original design: Thomas points his finger upward, an allusion to the “Doubting Thomas” who asked to see Jesus’ wounds (John 20:24–25); James, supposed author of the Epistle of James, has features similar to Jesus’; and Jesus reaches with both hands for the bread and wine.

Warhol worked not from Leonardo’s original painting, however, but from a black-and-white 19th-century rendering and a plastic sculture, painted to look like marble, that he purchased in a New Jersey Turnpike gas station (right foreground). Published shortly after Warhol’s death in February 1987, this photo of Warhol’s studio led author Jane Daggett Dillenberger to discover more than 100 paintings and studies by Warhol based on Leonardo’s Last Supper. Although these images form the largest series of religious art by any American artist, they have remained virtually unknown and unexamined until now.