The Last Supper
Skin Color of Jesus

It is typical that painters tend to paint people in their own image. When Italian renaissance painters painted Jesus, Mary and other members of the Biblical party, those people tended to look Italian. They even tended to wear "current" hairstyles.

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This isn't unusual at all. Look at the famous Cleopatra movie starring Elizabeth Taylor in 1963. We have statues and such of Cleopatra as well as many descriptions. She didn't look or dress like this. However, this was "sexy" for 1963, so it's what they put into the movie.

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Just look at Robin Hood variations over the years. Look at how his hair style changes, his clothing changes, and so on. Each generation comes up with a new look for him.

In any case, it wasn't "bad" of Leonardo Da Vinci to show Jesus and his companions as Italians with long, flowing hair. It's just typical of what artists tend to do. In a way it helps to make the scene more "accessible" to the viewers. The viewers can relate to it more easily if the scene seems familiar and normal to them.

The below comment caused the creation of this specific page.

From a Visitor -
I read your comments on the inaccuracy of Da Vinci's painting and portrayal of the last supper and I would first like to thank you for some clarifications. Many people automatically think that Da Vinci's painting is an exact replica of the truth. Yet there are many problems with it, like you said. There is one thing that you didn't mention and that is how the people look in the painting. This is proof right there of the inaccuracy of the painting. Jesus and his disciples were not white or fair skinned. They actually had fairly dark skin. Jesus was a Jew. He did not have blue eyes and light brown hair. He was dark. Also, if people went back to the true source they would read the Bible and find many things wrong with this painting. The Bible does not talk about a seperate relationship with Jesus. Jesus never had a relationship of this sort. There is no proof. An important point that needs to be point out is that for entertainment and pleasure, the truth is always stretched and exaggerated. Hollywood does it all the time with true stories. They "add" things to grab others attention. Did anyone think that maybe Da Vinci pulled the same scheme. For some reason, no one finds the truth interesting enough. These are just a few things that maybe you can add to your web-page. Thank you for all your effort and work on the page.

My Response -
Certainly the race issue is something I've often thought about and didn't even think to mention until you wrote. These people were obviously Middle Eastern living in that region of the world!! And yet the paintings always show them as Europeans. They were not Europeans. They were dark and had features shared by many modern day Jews in the middle east. You would think that people of a religion would want their main "characters" portrayed properly!

Below is a typical painting from the middle east during this time period. I've looked at many paintings and they all look very similar - dark hair, dark skin.

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Blonde hair was a trait developed only in Northern Europe - it is not found elsewhere in the world in pre-Biblical times. The only way that blonde hair began to show up elsewhere was that those Northern Europeans began to move outside their native lands and have sex with other groups.

Even then, blonde hair was VERY rare. Blonde hair's gene is recessive. That means you have to have 2 parents both with a blonde hair gene in order to create a child with blonde hair. The dominant gene is the dark hair gene. So let's say dark hair is a B and blonde hair is a b. Each parent has 2 genes of course, if you remember your basic biology. So if you have two blonde parents:
mom: bb
dad: bb

Then the child will definitely have blonde hair, because they can only get a b from mom and a b from dad. Note that you could also have dark haired parents that have a recessive blonde gene:
mom: Bb
dad: Bb

and 1 out of 4 times, a child would end up with bb and be blonde. But mom and dad in that case *both* would have had to be descended from Northern Europeans, to have gotten that b gene into their system.

From a Visitor -
I am a Jew from Morroco. I have blue eyes and light brown hair. My sister is blond with blue eyes. There are a lot of Jews from Morroco with blue eyes, blond and red head. I don't know where these so called experts get their information that Jews from the middle east are all dark. Obviously they have not met Jews from all parts of the world.

My Response -
Actually what you are saying is that somewhere in your past, both of your parents came from lines that had sex with Northern Europeans. So you and your sister are not pure-blooded Morrocoans. It would be just like saying that Native Americans nowadays can be found with blonde hair and blue eyes. That certainly is true. It's because those particular Native Americans had ancestors that had sex with Europeans. Inter-racial sex is pretty common in modern times - but it was often very taboo in the Biblical times.

I'm a genealogist who is very into DNA tracing of the different groups of humans across time. What we have nowadays in many ways has little resemblance to the way the world looked back in the days of Biblical times. In those days, there was VERY little "cross pollination" of the ethnic lines, because people were very rigid about those issues, and because religions were so strict. Most people did not move out of their village. I believe some studies say that 90% of people in Biblical times never went more than 10 miles from their home village. They were born there, married people that looked exactly like themselves, had kids and died there.

Certainly many people *today* share traits of many different ethnic groups. But not many people back in the year zero did.