Dublin's Last Supper

Artist Name(s) John Byrne
Artwork title Dublin's Last Supper

In 2003 curator Cliodhna Shaffrey invited John Byrne to devise a proposal for a large public artwork to be installed in an outdoor space at a new development adjacent to the river Liffey in central Dublin. 

The patron was developer Mick Wallace, who wanted a centrepiece for his new Italian Quarter courtyard. Clíodhna felt that an artist like John Byrne, noted for his satirical wit, might respond to the nuances of Mick Wallace's persona, and his passion for politics, philosophy, Italy, wine and football. A Juventus football shirt and logo were later incorporated into the artwork.

‘Dublin’s Last Supper’ (2004) is a large-scale photographic work (220 x 930 cm) depicting an modern-day re-enactment of Leonardo da Vinci's ‘The Last Supper’ (ca. 1520), with an ‘Irish twist’. Fabricated in Belgium, the photograph was screen-printed onto vitreous enamel, across nine connecting steel panels.

The staging of the scene took place in St Michael's and St John's Church, Temple Bar. For the background scene, separate photographs were taken of St Luke's church in the Coomb, and the dome of the Four Courts (taken from the roof of Temple Bar Gallery and Studios).

To assemble the cast of 13 apostles, Byrne approached dozens of local people over the course of several months. The final selection could represent a cross-section of ordinary people encountered on the City's streets. The cast were dressed by the artist in emblematic garments, and the banquet table was set with wine, fruit, Irish soda bread, salt, bitter herbs and a tea pot.

Reflective of a “changing society and the growing cultural mix in Dublin”, Byrne perceives the artwork as an expression of "positive politics and [his] faith in ordinary people". For him, the artwork suggests that neither institution nor religion - in this case Christianity - has a monopoly on ‘goodness’.

The 13 apostles (from left to right):

  • Bartholomew: Jude O'Dochartaigh, tattoo artist
  • James the Less: Vernoica, librarian
  • Andrew: Eddie Salim, from east Africa
  • Judas: Frank Conlon, actor and drama facilitator
  • Peter: Henry
  • John: Julie Kerrigan, employee at Pavee Point Travellers’ Centre
  • Jesus: Kulpreet Singh, PhD student at Trinity College Dublin
  • Thomas: Willie Crowley, ecologist
  • James the Great: Leighton, student at Cornell University
  • Philip: Diana Sabogal, student at the American College, Dublin
  • Matthew: Alan Kavanagh, architecture student at Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT)
  • Thaddeus: Aloysius McKenna, building worker
  • Simon: Michael Foley, network analyst
  • The extra hand behind Judas is that of Jonathan Hession, the photographer.

Jane Powers, ‘Dublin's Last Supper’, Irish Times magazine , July 03, 2004

Cliodhna Shaffrey 'Dublin's Last Supper' CIRCA, issue 109, Autumn 2004


A native of Belfast, Byrne attended the Belfast College of Art & Design. After graduation he began practicing as a performance artist while attending The Slade School of Art in London. Byrne has since performed at venues throughout Ireland, the UK, Denmark, Poland, Germany and Latvia.

He has been the recipient of several Arts Council Awards and his work is in many private and public collections (including the OPW and UCC). He regularly lectures in colleges throughout Ireland and is currently external examiner in Sculpture at Limerick College of Technology. He lives and works in Dublin.

For full biographical details see the artist’s website


Commission Type Private Commission
Commissioner Name Mick Wallace, Managing Director of M & J Wallace Ltd.
Commissioning process Open invitation by Project Curator Cliodhna Shaffrey
Project commission dates December 31, 2003 - July 31, 2004
Artform Visual Arts
Funded By Private
Project commission start date 31/12/2003
Project commission end date 31/07/2004
Location Italian Quarter courtyard 
County Dublin
Street Address Blooms Lane, Lower Ormond Quay on the North side of the River Liffey
Website www.john-byrne.ie/project.php?projectsId=10
Content contributor(s) Web Editor
Public engagement

Customers, diners, commuters, tourists and visitors to the Italian Quarter

Associated professionals / Specialists involved

Project Curator: Cliodhna Shaffrey

Photographer: Johantan Hession;

Stage Director; Laragh Pittmann;

Photo Retouching: Rory McAllorum;

Costumes: Jean Cronin;

Film Processing: Ciaran Rooney

Assistant Photographer: Fionn Hession



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