'Last Supper' paintings over time reveal a lot about portion size

Posted on Tue Mar 23 2010


Turns out McDonald's wasn't the first to super-size meals. Artists have been doing it for a millennium in one of the most notable portraits in history. There's a report out today from the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab in Ithaca, N.Y., which examined 52 famous renderings of the The Last Supper, with surprising results about portion control—or lack thereof. The study found that between the years 1000 and 2000, the main-course size in the artists' work increased by 69 percent, plate size by 66 percent and loaves of bread by 23 percent. There could be a simple explanation, in that food became more plentiful and less expensive over time. Reflecting that in art would've made sense. But the results are being published in April's International Journal of Obesity, so obviously they're trying to tell us something about the sorry state of our waistlines and the role that heaping helpings of food plays in that. Still, I don't see any chips, soda or candy in that meal or any overweight apostles. Not to get too biblical, but maybe we could learn a lesson or two from the loaves and fishes. In moderation, of course.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley



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