Information provided by the Metropolitan Museum, New York:
This splendid "Last Supper" is part of a series of four tapestries, designed about 1520, illustrating the Passion of Christ and possibly woven for the duke of Alba. The composition as well as the poses and gestures of some of the figures are inspired by a 1510 woodcut of the Last Supper by Albrecht Dürer. The love of decorative detail evident in the marble piers, the patterned table cloth, and the fictive wall hangings signal the Flemish taste for rich surface ornament.
An Italian influence marks the architectural background, with fanciful structures evocative of Roman antiquity, while the dramatic intensity of the scene which derives from Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper" in Santa Maria delle Grazia, Milan.
Van Orley was also profoundly influenced by a set of cartoons designed by Raphael for tapestries for the Sistine Chapel. These cartoons were sent for weaving to Brussels, the preeminent center for tapestry manufacture in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and they provided Flemish artists with a paradigm of the grand, heroic narrative style that had achieved currency in contemporary Roman art. In the "Last Supper," populated by muscular, rhetorically gesturing figures engaged in a moment of high drama, van Orley fully realized tapestry's potential for emulating monumental painting.
Provenance/Ownership History: Duke of Alba (?); [Duveen Brothers, New York, New York]; acquired by Philip Lehman in 1913.