Communion of the Apostles

Closer look

Communion of the Apostles
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The Communion of the Apostles, painted in Rome in 1861, shows Christ offering the blessed bread to St Peter and St John, as in the Gospel According to St Matthew, chapter 26. The softness of the colours makes us think of Raphael.

Works as large as this are rare in the Delaunay oeuvre.

The work has been given a pleasingly pyramidal structure, with the eyes of the twelve apostles converging on the figure of Christ.

The setting is an austere one: a place of worship in ancient times, set inside a grotto lit by three openings at the far end.

A garland unifies the building's architecture and enhances the solemn atmosphere.

The soft blues and reds are suggestive of a moment of serenity, in accord with the Roman landscape visible in the background.

Delaunay has accomplished a real tour de force in showing so many people in such a dark, confined space.

The work owes a great deal to Raphael, particularly in the monumental character of the figures, the gentleness of line and its overall harmoniousness.

With their features clearly delineated "in the Greek manner", the figures are reminiscent of the works of Delaunay's master Hippolyte Flandrin, famed for his work in Paris churches

Commissioned by Abbé Lepré, secretary to Monseignor Jacquemet, Bishop of Nantes, this version was considered too dark for the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, and the artist had to paint a second one, now to be found in a chapel in the apse of the cathedral. The second version is lighter and its tone deliberately less ecstatic:
St Peter is shown with his hands joined, rather than thrust back behind him, as in the first rendering of the subject.