Short Communication

International Journal of Obesity (2010) 34, 943–944; doi:10.1038/ijo.2010.37; published online 23 March 2010

The largest Last Supper: depictions of food portions and plate size increased over the millennium

B Wansink1 and C S Wansink2

  1. 1Applied Economics and Management Department, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
  2. 2Religious Studies Department, Virginia Wesleyan College, Norfolk, VA, USA

Correspondence: Dr B Wansink, Applied Economics and Management Department, Cornell University, 109 Warren Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA. E-mail:

Received 21 December 2009; Accepted 13 January 2010; Published online 23 March 2010.



Portion sizes of foods have been noticably increasing in recent years, but when did this trend begin? If art imitates life and if food portions have been generally increasing with time, we might expect this trend to be reflected in paintings that depict food. Perhaps the most commonly painted meal has been that of Jesus Christ's Last Supper, chronicled in the New Testament of the Bible. A CAD–CAM analysis of the relative food-to-head ratio in 52 representative paintings of the Last Supper showed that the relative sizes of the main dish (entree) (r=0.52, P=0.002), bread (r=0.30, P=0.04), and plates (r=0.46, P=0.02) have linearly increased over the past millennium.


portion size; art; plate size; calories; history; content analysis



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