Watts 1 Dori Watts Professor Heiniger World Masterpieces April 26, 2015 Heroics in the Arabian Nights and the Last Supper Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper and the famous Arabian Nights seem incomparable, but they share many qualities. Both tell the story of a hero through techniques each admirer interoperates differently. Emotion, frameworks, heroics, and foreshadowing are key points addressed by both masterpieces. The visual techniques in da Vinci’s painting reflect many of the literary methods in the Arabian Nights. The Last Supper tells an important story in Christianity – the crucifixion of Jesus. One of the most important things that happened at the last supper (capitalized?) was Jesus saying “one of you will betray me” (Mark 14:18). The scene is supposedly the reaction to these words. Judas, the betrayer, is seen holding a bag of silver because he was paid by the Romans to be disloyal to Jesus. Jesus was then crucified to save the sinful people of Earth. However, he was then resurrected to demonstrate the forgiveness of God. Jesus was clearly the hero in the story the painting portrays because he sacrificed himself for the sake of others. The Arabian Nights tells how a woman, in times dominated by the man, proved herself a hero through storytelling. It all started out with a man who murdered his wife for being unfaithful. He ran to his brother’s palace in distress only to discover his wife also having an affair too. So, they killed her and the slaves involved in the orgy and ran away. The two brothers ran into a gin with a woman in a glass box. When released, the woman forced the men to have sex with her then stole their rings to keep as a souvenir. When they returned to the kingdom, the Watts 2 king declared all women unfaithful and useless, then demanded to marry and kill one each day. Then Shahrazad came along with a plan to save the women of the nation. She married the king and stayed alive by beginning a story each night and not finish it, so the king would be forced to keep her alive in order to hear the end. It is the legend that she was married to him for one thousand and one nights, hence the title of the collection of stories. Shahrazad is the hero of this extensive collection of tales because she risked her life to save others through her bravery an intelligence. One of many techniques in the painting is the use of body language. Aside from how it looks, it helps viewers understand the history because the body language conveys many instances of foreshadowing. Judas is a main example: because he is holding silver, it is known that he is the one who will betray (“Leonardo, Last Supper”). Also, his neck is in a strange position, which foreshadows that he will later hang himself out of guilt (“Leonardo, Last Supper”). Jesus, however, is separated everyone, which shows he will die alone. Another neat aspect: all of the disciples are separated into group of three, which represents the idea of the holy trinity. The body positions portray the personality of the members at the table as well. For example, John, directly to the left of Jesus, is calm, and Peter is ready to defend Jesus, seen with a knife behind his back (“Leonardo, Last Supper”). Da Vinci uses body language to help tell the story of the hero without using words. Like in every painting, the spaces in the Last Supper are intentional and meaningful. First, there is only enough room for Jesus and his disciples in the scene, meaning viewers are not invited to the dinner. However, it feels as if onlookers are in the room, observing. The ceiling and walls show the extensive yet skilled use of perspective lines. They lead to the head of Jesus, again pointing out that he is the most important person at the table. The spaces also help unite the Watts 3 earthly and divine – Jesus is alone in the center but still with twelve other people (“Leonardo, Last Supper”). It seems simple, but it holds infinite significance in the scene. Da Vinci used the spacing in an innovative way, showing the Last Supper to be simple but incredibly important. The Arabian Nights utilizes spaces, too. They are used to separate social status, civilization and animalistic qualities, gender, and the real and imaginary realms. Most stories involve kings. They almost always live in palaces, which separate them completely from the people. Shahrazad includes these in her stories to show the king that he needs to better understand his people. Shahryar discovers his brother’s wife having an orgy in the palace courtyard. This separates the civilized from the uncivilized, because a queen having an orgy with slaves was considered borderline animalistic. When Shahryar and his brother came across the gin, he was carrying a woman in a glass box with four locks on it. This symbolizes the way women were treated – property of men. The glass aspect provided no privacy for her because anything she did the gin needed to know about. The four locks represent her belonging to him because it ensures she can never escape. In the story of the merchant, he owes his life to a demon who resides in a spooky woods. This separates the real and imaginary places. Monsters and scary creatures live in undesirable places, like the dark woods. Each space plays a critical part in its respective story, making it an important theme in the Arabian Nights. For the stories to live on for centuries, they had to be pleasing and memorable to the audience. Repetition was a big part in oral tradition to appeal to the listeners. “Repetitive designation creates…an effect…of casual foreshadowing and allows the audience the pleasure of recognition at that later moment when the object reappears and proves significant” (Pinault 1718). The audience likes to feel smart, and repetition makes it easy and natural to follow the story. “Taken together the phrasing and rhyme-form recall the oral performance within which the Watts 4 Nights evolved” (Pinault 15). The way it is written reflects its oral history. The popular version today edited by Daniel Heller-Roazen is a great source because it took stories for both oral and written sources: “This particular composer drew on both written sources and the oral performances of professional storytellers. The two influences…should be…in mind when evaluation [the Arabian Nights]” (Pinault 12). The techniques used for centuries, like repetition, are what have kept the tales alive and studied today. Although the Last Supper is known around the world, it is in terrible condition. Humidity, dust, and the materials used by da Vinci himself have made it impossible to remain well-kept (“Leonardo, Last Supper”). The two major renovations that have been done to keep it preserved for hundreds of years are to keep da Vinci’s genius techniques alive. His use of space, vanishing point, and the body positions help tell the story behind the scene. Techniques used in the Last Supper and the Arabian Nights have kept the masterpieces alive for centuries because of their thoughtfulness and effectiveness. The frameworks in the collection of stories are intricate and strategic. Shahrazad, a gifted storyteller, uses frameworks for many reasons, one being as a life saver. The longer and more complicated the story, the longer she stays alive because the king desires resolutions to each tale. Apart from that, each story come with a moral. Common morals include freedom, showing mercy, and fairness. In one story, the king may be unknowingly absorbing three to four morals because of the frameworks. Shahrazad is not only trying to stay married to the king, but teach the king to stop his unfair behavior toward the women in his kingdom. For example, the Story of the Fisherman and the Demon includes five more tales in it: the Tale of King Yunan and the Sage Duban, the Tale of the Husband and the Parrot, the King’s Son and the She-Ghoul, and the Tale of the Enchanted King. The overall summary of the story is that a poor fisherman finds a genie Watts 5 who tells him to fish in a nearby lake that is actually a kingdom. The king finds out and sets out to find out the mystery and saves the kingdom. In the end, the fisherman ends up rich and everyone lives happily ever after. The purposes of the stories within the Story of the Fisherman are to touch on morals. In this case, the fisherman was explaining the genie why it was unwise to trust him, so he told a story that he heard about a man who trusted too much and it backfired. Frameworks were used as a storytelling technique to fulfill a purpose Shahrazad set out to achieve – to save women and teach the king a lesson of respect. Similarly, there are many instances for framing in the Last Supper. Jesus is framed by a window behind him, which helps him stand out more. Interestingly, he is also surrounded by triangles – there is one formed on each side of him and Jesus himself is a triangular shape. This reflects the idea of the holy trinity, which was popular in da Vinci’s time (“Leonardo, Last Supper”). Leonardo is a Renaissance artist, and in that time period, Christianity was spreading throughout Europe, making it a popular topic in art. This again highlights the importance of Jesus because he is in the center of the painting and the framing makes him stand out. Framing is also evident on the ceiling, in the windows, and the long dinner table. This clearly parallels the framework in the story: there is the crucifixion of Jesus, Judas’s betrayal, how the bread and wine is in use, and how each disciple is involved. The framing used in the painting help viewers understand the complexity of the story behind the scene. Many features that serve to keep the group of stories remembered, like repetition, are useful because they evoke emotion in the audience. “Recurrent vocabulary, repeated gestures, accumulations of descriptive phrases around selected objects: such patterns guide the audience in picking out [what is] important in the flow of the narrative” (Pinault 22). Yes, these help the readers understand, but it also helps them form an emotional bond to the heroics displayed in the Watts 6 story. Tales effectively portray Shahrazad’s bravery and courage; the audience loves her because she did something unimaginable for women at the time. This makes for the emotion of empowerment for the women – Shahrazad was their hero. The hero of the story forms a bond with the audience, helping the stories carry on through centuries. Emotion is also inspired in elements in the painting like lines and gestures. It is evident that Jesus is the hero because he is calm, unlike those surrounding him. The disciples are clearly in distress. This induces mystery – viewers wonder what happened to create that reaction. The many questions left unanswered make onlookers hungry for more information, which is why the techniques are genius. Da Vinci’s mural make viewers curious, which is why it has been preserved for centuries. Literary devices in the stories help the imagery flow and become vivid in the reader’s mind. In the Arabian Nights, metaphors and similes are used constantly to keep listeners interested. EXAMPLE/S. Another example is hyperbole. Each story gets increasingly intense. This is mostly to keep the king interested, but in each story, there is a reason as well. For example, in the Story of the Merchant and the Demon, three merchants told stories and were each granted one third of a man’s life who was owned by the demon. However, for the demon to pity each man enough, his story had be more sad and memorable than the last one. The first man told the tragic story of how his wife was turned into the deer he has with him. The next man, who was accompanied by two dogs, told of how the dogs were his brothers. The stories were heartbreaking enough for the demon to pity them. These literary elements add to the emotion and interest of the listeners, creating a memorable experience. Another theme in the Arabian Nights is the significance of gender. The overarching story is of a man who felt he was treated unfairly so he feels it necessary to murder women. In today’s Watts 7 society this would unmistakably not be acceptable. That is where Shahrazad earns her merit. In her time, it was common practice to not have a place in society. Many women grew scared and simply followed the norm. However, Shahrazad recognized the severity of the situation and took matters into her own hands. She took a major risk by marrying the king knowing he was expecting to murder her as soon as possible. She stuck to a plan of storytelling and succeeded. The heroics she demonstrated were truly breakthrough, and that is why she is remembered today. In the Last Supper, gender roles and feminism are not a theme. However, it is evident that women were still viewed as unimportant during the Renaissance. At the table, there is Jesus and his twelve male disciples, who were seen as the most important people at the time. The story in the Bible is followed in the painting, but it did not have a whole lot of female heroes either, and it was worshipped all around Europe during the Renaissance. Therefore, these ideals are what people looked up to. Gender roles are not a theme specifically in the painting, but it gives an idea of what the society was like in the time it was created. The painting and the stories in the Arabian Nights are two different mediums that come from different time periods and different cultures. But, the themes present in both can be relatable. The heroics present, the emotion involved, and the mystery behind them relate the two. They are both memorable for these reasons, and have lasted for centuries. Watts 8 Works Cited Da Vinci, Leonardo. Last Supper. 1498. Tempera and oil on plaster. Santa Maria Della Grazie, Milan. Harris, Beth, and Zucker, Steven. “Leonardo, Last Supper.” Online video clip. Khan Academy, 2015. 25 April, 2015. Heller-Roazen, Daniel. The Arabian Nights. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2010. Print. “Leonardo, Last Supper.” Khan Academy. 2015. Web. 25 April, 2015. Pinault, David. Story-Telling Techniques in the Arabian Nights. Leiden, the Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1992. Web.