Any painting of the Last Supper includes the classic bread and wine, but only this image features the twist of Jesus and the Apostles dining on guinea pig.
Marcos Zapata was a Peruvian painter born in Cusco around 1710. He was one of the last students of the Cusco School, a Catholic art institution in which Spanish missionaries taught native students to paint religious works incorporating local elements as a tool for evangelism.
In 1753, Zapata painted his own rendition of the Last Supper. At first glance, it looks like any typical image of Christ instituting the Most Blessed Sacrament. Take a closer look and you’ll notice the center of the table features a cooked guinea pig, a delicacy in Peru known as cuy.
The painting also features chicha, a classic fermented beverage of South and Central America origin made from grains, corn, or fruit. Not prominently featured in Zapata’s rendition, other artwork from the Cusco school would include more subtle inculturation elements. Figures would be represented with a small bulge on their cheek, indicative of chewing coca leaf.
Today the painting is housed in the Cusco Cathedral, completed in 1654 nearly a hundred years after its construction began. The mother church of the Archdiocese of Cusco is also repository for the region’s rich colonial art. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.