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Item Name: Sculpture
Title: The Last Supper
Maker: Sam Spencer
Year: 1965
Country: Canadian
Materials: enamel paint on carved wood
Measurements: overall: 38.2 cm x 96.4 cm x 5.5 cm
ID Number: PC93.3
Legal Status: PERMANENT COLLECTION


Extended Label Info: Carved in low-relief and painted, this version of “The Last Supper” by Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci was created by the well-known folk artist, Sam Spencer. Spencer’s carvings were usually made, frame and all, from a single piece of wood. But in this work, which is nearly a metre long, he has deftly fitted several panels together. Spencer added colour with house enamel paint, and then finished his work with water-proof varnish, which has yellowed with age. Based on a story from the Christian Bible, the subject of the “Last Supper” has been depicted many times in Western painting, but it is da Vinci’s version which has become iconic. The prophet Jesus is central, surrounded by his apostles who are arranged in theatrical tableaux, which narrates their relationships. In recent years, this image has also become a visual meme in pop culture, as numerous artists have recreated the scene with characters from film and television. Arthur B. (Sam) Spencer was born in Worcester, England in 1898. Orphaned as a baby, he was cared for by his grandparents, and the family immigrated to Canada in 1903. Spencer grew up on a homestead farm near Punnichy, Saskatchewan, about an hour north of Regina. Home-schooled through Bible study, Spencer’s youth was spent working as a farmer, trapper, and fur trader, which informed his interests in nature and wildlife. He taught himself to carve at the age of 13, using a simple jackknife and a modified paring knife for carving finer areas. In 1941, after a lifetime of labour on farms and in construction, he retired to Saskatoon, and carved regularly. He filled his home with images of animals, pop culture figures, and religious stories. His carvings came to prominence through several exhibitions of folk art, including a retrospective at Dunlop Art Gallery in 1992. His works are held in private and public collections, notably the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the C.M. of Civilization).