Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

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

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1

References

  1. Varriano J . At supper with Leonardo. Gastronomica J Food Culture (2008); 8: 75–79.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Feeley-Hamik J . The Lord's Table: Meaning of Food in Judiasm and Early Christianity (1994). Washington Symposium Institution Press.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Frey W . Jews and Christians at the Lord's Table. In: Adamson MW (ed). Food and the Middle Ages: A Book of Essays (1995). Garland: New York and London. pp 113–144.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Phaidon Press. Last Supper (2000). Phaidon Press: New York.

  5. Janson HW . History of Art: A Survey of the Major Visual Arts from the Dawn of History to the Present Day (1974). Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 348.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Wansink B, Van Ittersum K . The Perils of Large Plates: Waste, Waist, and Wallet (in press).

  7. Young C . Depictions of the Last Supper. In: Walker H (ed.). Food in the Arts: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. Prospect Books: Devon, (1998). pp 223–236.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Wansink CS . Chained in Christ: The Experience and Rhetoric of Paul's Imprisonments (1996). Sheffield Academic Press: Sheffield, UK, pp 63–66.

  9. Wansink B . Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think (2006). Bantam-Dell: New York.

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank Audrey Cohen for help with data collection, and to Mitsuru Shimizu and Darcy Steeg for help with data analysis.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to B Wansink.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Wansink, B., Wansink, C. The largest Last Supper: depictions of food portions and plate size increased over the millennium. Int J Obes 34, 943–944 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2010.37

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2010.37

Keywords

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

Further reading

Search

Quick links