Rubens produced many study drawings when preparing for several oil paintings of this famous scene. The complex composition and endless avenues of artistic expression makes for a tough choice for the artists as to how to depict this religious narrative.
Most depictions feature a side-on view from relative proximity to the main table. In this drawing, however, Rubens takes a very different approach, exploring an angle which focuses instead on the supporting staff.
Whilst this may not have become the most famous Last Supper artwork, its layout did allow Rubens to demonstate his stunning figurative skills with a multitude of characters spreading across the scene.
The artist also uses this drawing to display his architectural skills, laying pillars prominently within this composition. There are also Roman-esque steps that lead up to where the main focus of the scene would normally be. In this case, however, the stunning anatomical detail in the foreground tends to lure the focus.
One theme that almost all depictions of The Last Supper have in common is the element of chaos and energy that also pervays this work. The artists have all managed to build an atmosphere of comfort and fun, with activity to be seen right across each painting and drawing. This plays into the impression of the excitement that was to be had during these traditional days of men drinking together in such establishments.